When Peterson steps out, Gerhart steps up for Vikings
LANDOVER, Md. — Toby Gerhart was leaving the Vikings locker room Sunday when he passed Adrian Peterson coming out the trainer's room.
"Hey, good work," Peterson said. "Good work."
Good and plentiful. Gerhart stepped in when Peterson suffered an ankle injury and shouldered a heavier-than-expected workload in a 17-13 victory against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
The rookie established career highs in carries (22) and rushing yards (76) while collecting his first NFL touchdown, a 5-yard run in the third quarter that gave the Vikings the lead for good.
"He had to step in there and play a full role, and I felt like he did a great job," Peterson said.
Peterson limped off the field early in the second quarter after Washington's Lorenzo Alexander rolled on his ankle while tackling him. Peterson had his ankle retaped and tested it on the sideline, but he was unable to return. He will have his ankle examined Monday to determine the extent the injury.
"I would have tried to go out there, that's just the mentality that I have," Peterson said. "Trust me, if I could have went, I would have been out there. But it was just unbearable."
Peterson had a strong start with 36 yards rushing on six carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run, as well as a 34-yard catch.
"I felt real good," he said. "But it wasn't meant to happen."
Gerhart was solid in relief. The second-round pick out of Stanford has gradually won the third-down job after a slow start to the season, but he assumed the leading role in the second half Sunday, rushing for 63 yards on 17 carries after halftime.
"I think I started to find a little rhythm," Gerhart said. "The first two carries were kind of sloppy, a little stiff out there. But once I got going, I kind of picked it up and got a feel for the game. It was nice to be out there."
Peterson offered him encouragement and suggestions between series. Asked when he knew Peterson was done for the game, Gerhart said: "They just kept pushing me back out there. My number kept getting called."
Gerhart's longest run was only 6 yards, and he averaged 3.5 yards per carry. But he fought for tough yards and protected the ball.
"Toby Gerhart, man, I take my hat off to him, and the offensive line," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We came in at halftime, we had an idea that Adrian might not be able to go back in the second half and we wanted to emphasize that, that wouldn't change our game plan. We were going to trust our offensive line to do what we talked about all week long, and they didn't flinch. Toby did a great job of stepping up."
The Vikings needed Gerhart because No. 3 running back Albert Young was inactive. Percy Harvin chipped in with three carries, but the offense used Gerhart to grind out the clock.
"Is Toby an explosive player like Adrian? I don't think anyone is," quarterback Brett Favre said. "But I think he's pretty darn good and reliable."