INDIANAPOLIS – Opening with their second straight NFC North opponent, the Indianapolis Colts will kickoff the home slate of the 2012 season with the Minnesota Vikings coming to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. Kickoff is 1:00 p.m. (ET), and the game is sold out.
The Vikings are coming off a thrilling 26-23 overtime victory over Jacksonville in Week One.
Minnesota's win was accompanied by the successful return of running back Adrian Peterson.
In late December 2011, Peterson tore his ACL and MCL, forcing him to miss the final week of the regular season and to endure a grueling rehabilitation during the offseason.
Any ill effects Peterson might have from that surgery eight months ago could not be seen in Week One as he had a pair of rushing touchdowns to go along with 17 carries for 84 yards.
"Not a lot of easing him in," said Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier. "He's an incredible, incredible person, tremendous athlete. But all the hard work he put in, and to come back and play the way he played on Sunday, is amazing to me."
Peterson says he's about "94-95 percent right now" and treated a majority of training camp like it was the regular season.
"I approached practice like it was a game. I wanted to duplicate (a game) as much as I could, and I still wasn't able to do it," Peterson said.
"When you get out there for a game, especially the regular season, it's a different speed. You can't really duplicate it at all. So I was already comfortable with it because I had been working hard this offseason, cutting as hard as I could."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano called Peterson "a future Hall of Famer" earlier this week, and "AD" (All Day) holds four of the top five single-game rushing totals in Vikings history.
With a second-year starter at quarterback in Christian Ponder, the Vikings will continue to lean on Peterson for his offensive production.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin is another weapon for the Vikings' offense, along with being one of the more electrifying kick returners in the game.
Harvin has four returns for touchdowns in his four-year NFL career and seven times he has gone over 200 combined yards in a game.
While Peterson and Harvin provide the game breakers on offense, the Vikings have arguably the game's most formidable pass rusher on defense.
Defensive end Jared Allen led the NFL in sacks last year with 22, and the Vikings topped the league with 50.
Allen leads the NFL with 105 sacks since 2004, but his 11-game streak of recording a sack was snapped last week against Jacksonville.
In his five seasons with the Vikings, Frazier has gotten a close look at the type of player Allen is and said he sees a lot of comparisons to Dwight Freeney.
"Jared's passion for the game is off the charts. He's a very smart player, tremendous athlete of course, but the thing that really impresses me is how well he knows the game and understands the game," Frazier said.
"He's not just doing it purely off athletic ability. The way he studies opponents, the time he spends on getting to understand the other teams' offense is just amazing to me. He's almost a coach on the field when he's talking to his teammates and helping them to get certain things right. If you combine that with his talent, you've got a pretty special player."
For the second straight week, Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense will face an All-Pro pass rusher in Allen. In the opener, Julius Peppers helped lead the Chicago defense.
The offense is looking for a more balanced attack than it showed in Chicago but Luck's 309 passing yards were the most for a Colts quarterback making his NFL debut.
Sunday's home opener marks Luck's third game experience inside Lucas Oil Stadium, and the offense would love to duplicate the start it had against the Rams in Week One of the preseason.
Luck hit a touchdown pass on the first play of the game and Indianapolis had a 21-point first half.
"Looking to last week, I think a quick start would have been converting a couple of those third downs early and putting a drive together whether that means scoring a touchdown, getting a field goal," Luck said. "Putting a drive together offensively is something we've got to do."
Colts 18, Vikings 15 – September 14, 2008
Facing a possibility of their first 0-2 start to the regular season since 1998, the Colts were rescued by kicker Adam Vinatieri. All the Vikings scoring came via the right foot of kicker Ryan Longwell. He booted five field goals, three of which from 45 yards and longer, but the game took a turn on the one kick he missed. For the first 44 minutes of the game, the score read: Longwell 15, Colts 0. After Longwell's 28-yard field goal with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter, the Colts' offense finally put together a scoring drive. Facing a third-and-six from the Colts 24-yard line, quarterback Peyton Manning hit wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez for a 58-yard gain. Before Gonzalez went down, he lateraled the ball to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Wayne took the lateral to the one-yard line. From there, Manning was denied twice on quarterback sneaks before running back Joseph Addai converted from one-yard to bring the score to 15-7. The next four possessions would see two turnovers from the teams. Minnesota had a chance to go up by two scores, but Longwell missed a 48-yard field goal with 7:09 remaining, and it was that break the Colts would use to their advantage. On the third play following the Longwell miss, Manning hit Wayne for a 32-yard touchdown pass and Dominic Rhodes' two-point conversion tied the game, 15-15, with 5:54 to play. The teams traded punts on the next two possessions, with the Colts downing the ball on the Vikings' two-yard line with 1:42 to play. The Colts' defense forced a three-and-out and the offense got possession back at the 50-yard line with the game tied and 1:07 remaining. After gaining just one yard on the first two plays, Manning found Wayne for a gain of 20 yards and with no timeouts remaining, the ball was spiked with nine seconds left. Vinatieri avenged a miss he had from 30 yards out earlier in the quarter. His 47-yard field goal gave the Colts an 18-15 victory. Gonzalez led the receiving corps with nine catches for 137 yards.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson versus Colts front seven: The All-Pro Peterson showed no ill effects in returning from reconstructive knee surgery he had during the off-season. Peterson had 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier still wants to limit Peterson's carries, meaning backup Toby Gerhart should see some action. The Colts' run defense could be playing with another man down as outside linebacker Dwight Freeney battles an ankle injury.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen versus Colts offensive line: Allen was a destructive force for the Vikings last season setting a franchise record with 22 sacks. The Vikings led the league with 50 sacks in 2011 and had two last week against the Jaguars (none coming from Allen). The Colts once again will be without offensive guard Joe Reitz, and the status of starting right tackle Winston Justice (concussion) remains in question. Eight-year veteran Trai Essex was signed by Indianapolis on Monday and has the versatility to play any position on the line.
-The Colts are 15-7-1 all-time against the Vikings.
-Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman became the first undrafted player since 1987 to return an interception for a touchdown in his NFL debut.
-Colts running back Mewelde Moore spent four seasons with the Vikings after being selected in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
-Colts tight end Coby Fleener had 82 yards receiving in Week One, which is the most ever by a Colts tight end in an NFL debut.
-Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is looking for a sack in his fifth straight game.
-The Vikings have five players that went to the University of Notre Dame (tight ends John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, center John Sullivan, and safeties Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith).
-Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, Alan Williams and Diron Reynolds were assistant coaches for the Colts during the Super Bowl year of 2006.
-Current Vikings guard Charlie Johnson (2006-10) played for the Colts, along with wide receiver Devin Aromashodu (2007).
-Vikings wide receiver Michael Jenkins has 53 straight games with a catch.
-Since 2004, Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams has 54.5 sacks, which leads all defensive tackles in the NFL.
-Since 2007, the Vikings average the most rushing yards in the NFL at 139.2 a game. They have 333 rushes of 10-plus yards during that time frame, 15 more than any other team.
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on what type of running back Adrian Peterson is):
"He's a future Hall-of-Famer. He's unbelievable. For him to come back from the injury that he had in the time he has had to rehab that thing is super-human in its own right. The guy is a tremendous runner. He's strong. He's physical. He's fast. If you don't set the edge on him, if he gets outside and down the sideline, he's gone. He's faster than anyone you got on defense. He can take it the distance. If you do set the edge on him, if you're not sound on the backside and you got people on the ground, he'll cut the thing back and give you all sorts of headaches. He's a tremendous, tremendous talent."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on why the number of high-scoring games in Week One):
"The athleticism, people spreading you out, the tight ends, the number of tight ends now that can run and catch, play action pass, the big-chunk plays down the field. Wide receivers, they are getting bigger, faster and stronger. They are just not making the defensive backs the same way as they're making the wide receivers. They are just not growing at the same rate (laughs). You have some mismatches on the outside that way. That's where this game is headed. That's why you saw a guy like Ray Lewis drop 20 pounds because of where the game's going. He gets down to 235 instead of (255). You don't see people lining up in two-back, I-formation and running leads and isos (isolations), playing smash-mouth football, where your mike linebacker had to be 250-260 to hold up in the run game. You just aren't seeing that anymore."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on a guy like Jared Allen, and if you need to help him or let Anthony Castonzo block him one-on-one):
"You see everybody on tape doing the same thing. They've got a back over there, they've got a tight end over there. Anybody that has the sack production that Jared (Allen) has earned that right. It's just like people taking care of Dwight (Freeney) and Robert (Mathis), all the time. That's all you hear about is those guys complaining about, 'Hey I'm getting doubled, I'm getting chipped, they're sliding the protection to me.' Obviously, we are going to do what's necessary to keep our quarterback upright and clean."
Colts Defensive End Cory Redding(on the importance of playing well at home):
"Winning is very important. You don't want nobody to come to your house, kick their shoes off and put their feet on your coffee table, read your newspaper, sleep in your own bed, you know what I mean? You don't want that stuff to come to your house and do these things that you normally do. That's what this place needs to be for us. It's our sanctuary. That's our home turf. We have to protect home. We have to win at home. We have to have a sense of presence. Nobody comes into our house and do what they want to do. That's what we're establishing here. We were very successful in the preseason, and we have to carry those things over. The crowd was into it. We have to go out there and feed off that energy and make plays."
Colts Outside Linebacker Jerry Hughes(on the story Chuck Pagano told the team about the New York Giants):
"He just briefly went into a simple explanation of how the Giants were 0-1 to kick the season off and we're 0-1 to kick the season off. I think they went on a stretch and started putting some games together, started winning, and next thing you know they're in the Super Bowl winning the whole thing. It's just Week One and no one needs to panic yet. Just put our noses down, come to work and keep working hard."
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier(on Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck):
"You know what, when he was coming out of college we were looking at tape and we were all so, so impressed with him as a collegiate player. From what I've seen in the NFL, he's going to be a great player in our league for a long time. He has all the tools you look for in a top notch quarterback. I'm sure if they put more weapons around him, and continue to develop the talent they have, he's going to be a big time player."
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier(on from a distance what do you think of this Colts team):
"A lot of new names on the team, a lot of changes in the organization, but I can see the direction they're going. It looks like they are getting some things done that will put them on pace to get back to a team that can win the AFC South in the near future. I like some of the things they're doing on offense, defense and special teams. I have a lot of respect for Chuck Pagano. I know he's a good coach and he'll do well. The organization has made some tough decisions and I think it'll pay off for them down the line."
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier(on if Adrian Peterson is full-go or on a pitch-count):
"Well we're going to monitor his stats in the ballgame. We're not quite ready to say that he's the Adrian from prior to his surgery yet. We're still in the early stages of this process from a playing standpoint. So we do want to keep an eye on his workload and just kind of bring him along as we go. Now that being said, I could not have predicted that he would have had 17 carries and almost 100 yards rushing in his first game back. We'll see how it goes, but we definitely want to consider the fact that he's coming off a major surgery with one game under his belt after that surgery."
Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson(on if coming back from the injury was more of a mental thing than physical in regards to trusting the knee):
"I would definitely say that, mentally, it's the toughest thing. You've got to be able to trust it and know that the structure of the ligament is going to be strong, as strong as or stronger than the opposite ACL. I think a lot of guys get caught up in that mental battle, thinking that maybe it's not healed all the way, or maybe it's not as strong. And then that comes back to bite them. So me, personally, I've just had in my mind that, you know, it's stronger than the right leg, so let's just go out and focus on the things that I can control."
Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson(on if his nickname "All Day" still holds true after the injury):
"I can get it done now. That's one thing that I sit back and I just thank God because of what I'm able to do now. I know my body, and I know that if I hit that point, where I envision how much better I'm going to be. I'm going to just continue to improve man because to me, personally, I will say about 95 percent but that five percent is huge. It doesn't sound like that from the outside looking in, but from the inside I know how big of a difference that's going to make once I get that five percent back. That's going to improve me and my game. So I'm just excited to get to that closer and closer each week as I keep working."