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Adrian Peterson’s amazing, except when the Vikings win

Adrian Peterson is having an incredible season. He’s likely to hit the 2,000-yard mark on Sunday, and he’s also chasing Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. But his splits this year are…interesting.

The table below shows Adrian Peterson’s game logs. These display his traditional statistics, along with his Win Probability added, Expected Points Added, and Success Rate, all courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats; finally I have added the Vikings SRS score for that particularly game (on the season, Minnesota has an SRS of +3.0).


A robot and a vegan walk into a bar...

A robot and a vegan walk into a bar...

Peterson has only had two games this season where he averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry. Those two games were, without question, the two most impressive wins of the year for the Vikings. Peterson had identical stat lines of 25 carries/86 yards/0 touchdowns in shocking upsets over the 49ers and Texans.

In addition to those two games, Peterson had three other games with poor success rates — wins over the Lions, Titans, and Cardinals. According to Burke, Peterson had only two great games when it comes to Win Probability Added: they were the two losses to the Packers and Seahawks. Those were his best two games according to EPA-added and yards per carry, and those games represent two of his three highest rushing totals.

Adrian Peterson is clearly The Man. So what gives? I don’t think we can say definitively, but my guess is that a running back alone can’t simply account for too many wins. He can cause defenses to focus their attention on him, but the question often still comes down to whether or not Christian Ponder can deliver; Peterson alone is rarely enough.

There have been four games this year where the Vikings have had the ANY/A edge, and they won all four games. In three of them (SF, HOU, TEN) that differential was largely due to a great job by the defense; only against the Jaguars did the passing game really shine.

Here’s another interesting fact. In Minnesota’s wins, Peterson has 210 carries for 1,136 yards, a 5.41 yards per carry average; in Minnesota’s losses, Peterson has 104 carries and an amazing 7.4 YPC average. Among the 23 running backs with at least 50 carries in both wins and losses this year, that’s the most drastic split in the NFL.

1Doug MartinTAM61347635.69591575493.552.2
2Chris JohnsonOTI5955585.874101606293.9311.94
3Stevan RidleyNWE1121410244.79104561652.9501.84
4Darren McFaddenRAI4963904.06171012602.5711.49
5Matt ForteCHI81266385.0646983533.601.46
6Jonathan DwyerPIT5813624.4717642093.2711.2
7Mark IngramNOR7823584.3738642053.221.16
8Jamaal CharlesKAN260360611321010965.2240.78
9LeSean McCoyPHI3683144.62181224813.9410.68
10Ahmad BradshawNYG71175444.6546883644.1410.51
11DeAngelo WilliamsCAR6802953.6929722323.2210.47
12Reggie BushMIA71255524.4258944084.3410.08
13Shonn GreeneNYJ61405403.86591174493.8430.02
14Marshawn LynchSEA1020610335.0195914575.022-0.01
15Steven JacksonRAM71285214.0727893684.131-0.06
16Ryan MathewsSDG3521933.71091325143.891-0.18
17Trent RichardsonCLE51053583.415101625923.656-0.24
18Vick BallardCLT101335163.8815512204.310-0.43
19BenJarvus Green-EllisCIN91887133.7946903814.232-0.44
20C.J. SpillerBUF5673955.94101167906.812-0.91
21Alfred MorrisWAS92038764.3296995375.421-1.11
22Ray RiceRAV101857604.1175693785.482-1.37
23Adrian PetersonMIN921011365.41761047627.334-1.92

Among running backs with at least 75 carries in losses, Peterson is blowing away the record for yards per carry in losses. Although another 2012 running back is hot on his heels.

  • Vhawk

    I think a reasonable inference would be that going overboard to gear up to stop a RB at all costs is a really bad idea and leads to you getting stomped by a really bad QB.

  • Corey

    There’s an extremely simple explanation for this: Peterson’s long runs skew the numbers to the point of making any analysis of them next to useless.

    Peterson averaged 17.3 carries in the Vikings’ six losses. Three of his runs in those games went for 82, 74 and 64 yards. Take out those three carries and you have a line of 101 carries for 540 yards, or 5.35 YPC. In Minnesota’s 10 wins, Peterson had long runs of 82, 61 and 51. Subtract out those three carries, and you get a line of 241 carries for 1,141 yards, or 4.73 YPC.

    By just pulling out three runs, your gap goes from 1.92 to 0.62. (Hardly scientific, but I think it illustrates pretty well that one or two long runs — which he could break at any time against any team — have a huge impact on the numbers.