MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -After jettisoning Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper in the last two years, the Minnesota Vikings were in desperate need of a new act to headline the offense.
Introducing Adrian Peterson.
The rookie from Oklahoma put on quite a show in his first real game, rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries and making a spectacular catch-and-run for a 60-yard touchdown that broke the game open in the Vikings' 24-3 victory over Atlanta on Sunday.
``I always expect to help the team and make big plays,'' Peterson said. ``This is what you dream about the night before, the big plays you want to make.''
It was also what Vikings fans have been dreaming about ever since their team selected Peterson with the seventh overall pick in April's draft. Last year, the Vikings fielded a punchless offense that put most people to sleep, setting franchise lows for first downs gained and touchdown passes in a miserable 6-10 season.
After becoming so used to the big-play units featuring Moss, Culpepper and Cris Carter in recent seasons, the fan base responded with a startling indifference to what once was the state's main attraction.
The Vikings needed to get an extension from the NFL, and a last-minute bail out from a local television station, to avoid being blacked out in the Twin Cities for the first time since the B.M. era - Before Moss - ended 10 years ago.
Now they have a new leading man that should make the box office a little busier.
``You can see the talent,'' Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking said. ``You can see the ability. There's no doubt about that. He's got a bright future.''
Peterson went from supporting actor to star in a hurry. The initial plan was for him to split the carries with starter Chester Taylor, who rushed for 1,216 yards last season. But Taylor bruised his hip in the first quarter, and with no other tailbacks dressed, Peterson took over.
``He's a tremendous talent,'' Vikings center Matt Birk said. ``When he gets that ball, he wants to go somewhere with it.''
Peterson averaged 5.4 yards per rush against a defense that packed as many as nine men in the box to stop him.
``We just kept pounding the rock,'' Peterson said. ``Just playing physical, hard-nosed football. That's what we want to be about.''
After the Falcons cut Minnesota's lead to 10-3 in the fourth quarter on a field goal by Matt Prater, the Vikings faced a third-and-5 at their 40. Tarvaris Jackson took the snap and was immediately surrounded by two Atlanta defenders and had to hurry a swing pass to Peterson in the flat.
Known more for his legs than his hands in college, Peterson stretched out to get his fingertips on the ball and made a nifty juggling catch before turning upfield.
``Tarvaris Jackson made a great pass under pressure and Sidney Rice opened a lane for me to break it down the sidelines, and there was nothing but green grass,'' Peterson said, perhaps forgetting he did all his damage on artificial turf. ``It was off to the races.''
Peterson sprinted untouched 60 yards for the score and then leaped into the stands as an adoring crowd exploded.
``Every time he has the football, you have the feeling he's going to break it,'' Jackson said. ``That is the excitement he gives you. He has a different tempo about himself. He has a lot of speed and power, pretty much the whole package, so every time you hand him the football, you're expecting something good is going to happen.''

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