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Peterson’s fumbling issues no longer a joke, running back says

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adrian Peterson finally seems ready to get serious about his fumbling problems. The Vikings running back mostly shrugged when asked about losing fumbles in losses to Green Bay and Arizona last month. On Monday, there was no dismiss...

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, right, hands off to running back Adrian Peterson against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adrian Peterson finally seems ready to get serious about his fumbling problems.

The Vikings running back mostly shrugged when asked about losing fumbles in losses to Green Bay and Arizona last month. On Monday, there was no dismissing how costly his lost fourth-quarter fumble was in Sunday’s 10-9 loss to Seattle in an NFC wild-card game at TCF Bank Stadium.

“The first thing that comes to mind is making sure that I put emphasis on protecting the ball,’’ said Peterson, who had seven fumbles during the regular season and lost three. “That’s going to be my No. 1 objective going into this offseason.

“I’ve joked around and said, ‘Yeah, I done put the ball on the turf, but how many have I lost? There’s guys that have lost more fumbles than me this year.’ But when it comes back and it bites you in this type of way, it’s something I want to put an emphasis on.”

With Minnesota leading the Seahawks 9-7, Peterson lost a fumble at the Vikings’ 40-yard line after catching a pass with 10:37 left in the game. That led to a 46-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 8:04 remaining that gave Seattle the lead for good at 10-9.

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Vikings kicker Blair Walsh botched a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds left that would have won it. After the game, Peterson said he was as much to blame as Walsh.

It’s the second time Peterson has had ball security issues in a playoff game. He fumbled twice in the 31-28 overtime loss to New Orleans in the 2009 NFC championship game, but Minnesota recovered both. A third fumble, which the Saints recovered at their own 10-yard line, was credited to Brett Favre.

That defeat kept Peterson from going to his first Super Bowl. He talked openly Monday about wanting to get there next year in Houston, where he lives during the offseason.

“I already set my top goal for next year, (and it) is to win the NFC North and (be) playing in the Super Bowl in Houston,” Peterson said. “(Winning it is) definitely realistic. … I feel like the sky’s the limit for us. … I think our chances are as good as anyone’s.”

As Vikings players cleaned out their lockers Monday, there was plenty of talk about how good they could be next season. After going 11-5 and winning the NFC North, the Vikings are expected to return most of their top players, and many are young.

“(Going) 11-5 won’t be acceptable (next season), in my eyes,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “We have to win one more better. We’ve got to get closer to that goal that we want to accomplish, and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”

To do that, several players said they must use Sunday’s devastating loss to help them get better. The Vikings led 9-0 entering the fourth quarter.

“We should have won that game,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “Our biggest thing that we have to do is right now is take this loss, let it sink in and not feel this way anymore. … We’ve just go to take this as motivation.”

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Peterson said the offense needs to score more points. The Vikings ranked 16th in the NFL in scoring offense while they were fifth in scoring defense.

Peterson, whose 1,485 yards in the regular season made him the second-oldest rushing champion in NFL history, turns 31 in March. Despite some nagging ankle, shoulder and back injuries late in the season, he said he feels fine now and vows to come back a “better player” in 2016.

“Just being more versatile,” Peterson said. “You look at the young guys, Jerick (McKinnon), he comes in a lot on third down and he presents a different piece to our offense, running routes and things like that. I envision myself doing things like that at a different level, so that’s what I mean by being more involved and being more diverse.”

Peterson certainly will be back for a 10th season with the Vikings after he restructured his contract last July and then had a strong season. Peterson has a cap number of $11 million, and his salary is scheduled to become fully guaranteed March 18, the third day of the new league year.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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