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 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -These days, 296 yards doesn't just get you an NFL rushing record.
Adrian Peterson's historic performance against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday has invigorated a downtrodden team that still finds itself well on the outside of the NFC's playoff picture.
``He's a separate entity, but to say that Adrian gives you that swagger,'' coach Brad Childress said on Monday following Minnesota's 35-17 victory over San Diego. ``It gives you a swagger when you can beat people up and win, no matter how you are doing it.''
Peterson didn't just pound the worn out and banged-up Chargers. He tormented them. He humbled them. And he reduced what was the No. 7 rush defense in the NFL to a frustrated, helpless group.
The incomparable day has given the Vikings (3-5) a glimmer of hope in a season that looked to be lost after consecutive defeats to Dallas and Philadelphia.
``Yes we do,'' safety Darren Sharper said when asked if the Vikings still see themselves as a playoff team. ``How it's worked the last couple of years ... nine wins you have a good chance. We have plenty chances of getting to nine, 10.''
Would they feel that way if Peterson hadn't fallen to them at No. 7 in April's draft?
``We would still feel that way,'' Sharper said after a slight hesitation. ``He definitely gives you a little extra added comfort because of his ability. So it's good that he pretty much dropped to us at No. 7. And I can say 'dropped' now, because you know those guys before us would love to have him.''
Who wouldn't?
Using an unmatched blend of size, speed and balance, Peterson already has racked up 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground and is turning the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year into a laugher.
He has also united a team that was on the brink of disaster just a week ago. The offense struggled for most of the season, with Childress still figuring out how best to utilize the 22-year-old who is still learning on the fly.
The veteran defense, meanwhile, was getting tired of doing all the heavy lifting, of keeping the team in games that ultimately went south when the offense couldn't score.
Now that Peterson has taken center stage, pushing veteran Chester Taylor into a supporting role, the Vikings seem to have a newfound confidence.
In his second straight start, Peterson carried the ball a career-high 30 times as Childress quieted the critics calling for more touches for the team's most talented player.
``I'm sure if that record stands for a while, then great,'' center Matt Birk said. ``But the biggest thing was the team got a win yesterday. We needed a win to kind of get going in the right direction again.''
The defense seemed to feed off each burst from Peterson, as well. Entering the game ranked 32nd against the pass, the Vikings harassed Philip Rivers all afternoon, held LaDainian Tomlinson to 40 yards rushing and Antonio Gates to two catches.
``Offensively and defensively, this league is all about confidence and having a little bit of swagger,'' Childress said. ``The better teams that you see have that, just by virtue of the fact that they win.''
The Vikings still have a lot of work to do if they are going to jump back into the NFC playoff race. They are at Green Bay on Sunday and still have tough games remaining at the New York Giants, against Detroit and Washington and at Denver.
As far as the Vikings are concerned, as long as No. 28 is in the backfield, anything is possible.
``Every week,'' cornerback Antoine Winfield said, ``this guy does something that amazes me.''
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