Manning impresses Peterson, Zimmer**
Running back Adrian Peterson held court with Denver media for 20 minutes via conference call, and it was the last question that he had to think about most.
Asked to name a better running back than him, Peterson paused before joking, "Peyton Manning's got some nice moves."
Laughs aside, Peterson -- like Manning -- has faced questions about his effectiveness because of his age and how much time he had missed. He has a great deal of respect for Manning and certainly doesn't agree with the extreme narratives that have said the quarterback is done.
"It doesn't look like it to me!" Peterson exclaimed. "He's had some struggles, but we all do, young and old. He looks good to me."
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer agreed, and with experience coaching Bengals defenses that went against Manning, he said that Manning hasn't changed much.
"I think he looks pretty similar," Zimmer said. "He's been throwing the ball down the field vertically, I think, more in the last couple weeks. He's made a bunch of plays at the end of ballgames to win really all three of them. He looks the same to me."
Zimmer and Peterson expect challenge from Ware and Miller
Sunday's matchup will reunite outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware with Zimmer, who was the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator when they drafted Ware.
Zimmer coached Ware from 2005-06 and a decade later, he still sees him as the same bright-eyed pass rusher out of Troy University.
"It looks like he's found the fountain of youth," Zimmer said. "DeMarcus was always a great kid and a very tireless worker, but the things that made him really special were his first-step quickness and his strength.
"His first-step quickness looks exactly like I remember it and he's obviously stronger, but he was very strong at the time. I remember when we drafted him that he was really strong in all of the combine measurements, but he is such a great athlete. I have so much respect for him."
That quickness and strength could wreak havoc for the Vikings' backfield, especially for Peterson if he needs to chip him to prevent Ware from getting to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Ware and outside linebacker Von Miller each rank in the top six in NFL history (since 1982) in sacks per game among players who have appeared in 40 or more contests. Miller ranks third with 0.85 sacks per game and Ware checks in at sixth with an average of 0.82.
Check out the images that defined the Week 3 games from around the AFC West. (All photos by AP Images unless otherwise noted)
"It'll be a load for us," Peterson said. "Von Miller and guys that are standing up -- they're good backs. They're the No. 1 defense for a reason. We just have to make sure that we're on point starting with our front, but as far as the running backs, making sure that we're hearing our calls and making sure we're dialed in on each play. I know that they're going to present something new to us."
Peterson, who grew up a Cowboys fan watching Ware's career develop, knows the kind of impact he can have.
"When DeMarcus Ware was there, I was able to check him out," Peterson said. "He was a force. He's still a force to be reckoned with. It's going to be exciting just to see him again and play against him and make him get his money's worth."
Vikings offense developing with Bridgewater, Peterson
After a promising rookie season navigating the offense in 12 games as the starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater's progress in his second year has added stability to the Vikings offense.
"He's a lot more under control of everything that's going on, all the surroundings that happen with making the play calls, making the checks, getting the protections right, understanding where all the players are, the check-downs, the second progressions, the third progressions," Zimmer said. "He's always been a very mature kid but I just kind of see him taking it to another level that way."
Peterson agreed, noting that his comfort is something that's key for a young player, and particularly for a position that shoulders so much responsibility.
"There's not much that rattles him and I feel like that's big for any player, but especially a young quarterback," Peterson said. "He [doesn't] get down on himself too much. He knows that 'Hey, go to the next play and keep looking forward and not to dwell.' You've got to have a short memory when you play the quarterback position."
Peterson, who missed all but the Vikings' season opener in 2014 due to team and league punitive actions stemming from child abuse charges, has also added to the Vikings' offense, establishing a more physical rushing attack.
"I think a lot of it just is the mentality of what our football team is trying to be like. I think he helps with the physicality in the offensive line," Zimmer said. "I think he's added a big dimension, really, to the whole team."
Physicality in the rushing game is imperative for Peterson, who knows that establishing that mindset can have a resounding effect on the rest of the offense.
"That right there sends a message to a guy," Peterson said. "It's going to be big for us to be physical up front and I feel like if we establish—once we establish that, everything else will kind of work out easier for us."