The next play, everything changed.
Peterson's 82-yard scoring jaunt after the kickoff fueled a 23-point second quarter in the Minnesota Vikings' 36-22 victory Sunday that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Despite that slow start, Peterson piled up a season-best 212 yards rushing on 24 carries, keeping a running back less than a year removed from serious knee surgery very much alive in a quest for Eric Dickerson's single-season record.
"The thing that people don't see is how hard I work during the offseason," Peterson said. "I grind, hard. When you want to be great, and in my mind I want to be the greatest that ever played, you can't talk about it, you've got to go out and work."
Peterson has a career-best 1,812 yards rushing, topping his previous best of 1,760 on a 52-yard carry in the fourth quarter. He has eight straight 100-yard games, leaving him 294 yards shy of Dickerson's mark set in 1984 when the Rams (6-7-1) were in Los Angeles.
The latest haul helped keep the surprising Vikings (8-6), a year removed from a 3-13 season, in the playoff picture, too. They finish at Houston and then host Green Bay.
"Guys are having fun, we're excited, we're treating it like our playoff season," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "If we lose, there's a chance we might not get in."
The defense chipped in, too, producing 10 points off a pair of turnovers in the second quarter. Backup defensive end Everson Griffen, who replaced injured Brian Robison, returned his first career interception 29 yards for a touchdown and Chad Greenway made the recovery when Sam Bradford couldn't handle a snap that coach Jeff Fisher said was hard to handle after center Scott Wells lost his grip on the ball.
The Vikings were up 26 points before Bradford threw consolation touchdown passes to Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks in the fourth quarter.
The loss all but squashes playoff hopes for the Rams, who had won three in a row.
"It's pretty disheartening," Bradford said. "Obviously, we knew that we had a shot and if we wanted to do that we were going to probably have to win the remainder of our games."
Steven Jackson became the 15th player to have 10,000 yards rushing for one franchise, and the 27th overall to reach the milestone. He had 73 yards on just eight carries and has 909 yards on the year, keeping him in range of an eighth straight 1,000-yard season.
This could have been the final home game for Jackson, who has an option to void the final year of his contract that would pay him $7 million. Coach Jeff Fisher has said he wants Jackson back and the running back has said he wants to stay, too.
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"We have a decision to make in the offseason, but I will seek the counsel of some people that I have great respect for and I don't think about that," Jackson said. "I still have two games to do my job, and to do it the way that I play, I need to be completely focused on that."
A moment of silence was observed for victims of the Connecticut elementary school shooting before the national anthem, with dozens of children wearing uniform jerseys holding hands with players in a circle extending from the 30-yard lines and centered on the Rams' logo at midfield.
In a tribute to the 26 victims, players wearing No. 26 -- Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Winfield
-- held hands with coaches Jeff Fisher and Frazier to form a smaller interior circle.
"You know, as we sit here and feel sorry for ourselves after losing a football game, it really helps put things in perspective," Rams defensive end Chris Long said.
Christian Ponder had a turnover-free game and ran for the game's first score for the Vikings, who had been just 1-5 on the road with the other victory at Detroit in September. Rookie kicker Blair Walsh was perfect on five field-goal attempts, three of them from 50 yards and beyond.
Peterson had minus-3 yards on five carries on the Vikings' opening drive that benefited from a short field at the St. Louis 45. Ponder stepped up, going 3 for 3 for 38 yards, and scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown that put them up 7-0.
Rookie Brian Quick won a jump ball with A.J. Jefferson in the end zone on a 4-yard reception, landing just inbounds to tie it early in the second quarter. The rest of the way, the Rams were playing catch-up.
Peterson entered the day with more yards rushing than 23 teams, including the Rams, and accounted for more than two thirds of the Vikings' 322 yards. Ponder was a facilitator, going 17 for 24 for 131 yards.
Throw out the costly mistakes and it looks as if Bradford was on his game, going 35 for 55 for 377 yards. Jackson caught eight passes for 73 yards, and Brandon Gibson and Amendola had six receptions each.
NOTES: Frazier said Robison had an AC sprain to the right shoulder and will undergo an MRI exam on Monday. ... Rams OG Harvey Dahl will likely require surgery for torn right biceps sustained late in the game. Dahl had made 30 consecutive starts for St. Louis. ... The Vikings' 27-point first half was a season-best by 10 points.
Press; By R.B. FALLSTROM]
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