Redskins RB Peterson rejuvenates ground attack

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) rushes by New York Giants cornerback Curtis Riley (35) for a touchdown in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium.Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago the Redskins finished fifth from the bottom of the league in rushing yards per game, averaging just 90.5.

This year, behind a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson the first-place Redskins are churning out 128 yards per game, good for eighth in the NFL.

The 33-year-old Peterson is averaging 97.8 yards per game and Washington (5-2), which was expected to rely more on the pass, has shown more balance.

“I think his production has been such that we’ve continued to run the ball,” coach Jay Gruden said on Monday. “When you have success running the football, you’re not just going to stop running it, you are going to keep running it, especially with a guy that is hot like he is right now.

“Our offensive line, tight ends, receivers are doing an excellent job blocking for him and we’re getting some big hits, staying on track for the most part. We’ve added some RPO type things, which we’ve ended up handing off a lot of them. I don’t foresee any major changes to our game plan. He’s going to be a major part of it.”

Washington’s 20-13 win at the Giants on Sunday wasn’t pretty. Alex Smith completed only 20 of 32 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown pass — to Peterson, his first since2013 — and the game was in doubt late in the fourth quarter.

Then Peterson, who had lost a fumble in the first half, took a handoff, ran right and burst through a hole for 64-yard sprint to the end zone, giving Washington a 20-6 lead. He finished with 149 yards on 26 carries and Washington is 5-2 for the first time since 2008.

“The best thing about our running style right now is we can do a lot of different things.” Gruden said. “You’ve seen the power running games, you’ve seen the tight zones, you’ve seen the outside zones, you’ve seen the gap traps, you’ve seen the pulling guards and tackles on the perimeter, some toss cracks, you’ve seen a little bit of everything in our running game which has been very, very effective.”

With the Redskins stepping up in class a bit this week to host a 3-4 Atlanta Falcons team coming off a bye, Gruden needs to get his passing attack firing on all cylinders as well. The Redskins rank 26th in the league, generating just 213 yards per game.

Gruden sees it as just a matter of time before Smith and the passing game increase their production.

“There are still some nuances, whether it’s a choice route or an option route where we are just a little bit hesitant here and there or maybe it’s a deep ball that we’re not letting go or let loose or we haven’t had time to let loose for whatever reason,” Gruden said. “So, we’ve just got to continue to keep plugging away at what we’re doing and things will happen positively.”

–TE Jordan Reed caught a season-high seven passes for 38 yards in Sunday’s win over the Giants. Reed’s second catch of the day gave him 300 for the season, making him the second fastest tight-end to reach that mark in NFL history.

–S D.J. Swearinger had two interceptions in Sunday’s win over the Giants. It’s the second time this season Swearinger picked off two passes in one game. Late in the game, he broke up a pass at the goal line that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal which cut Washington’s lead to 13-6.

–DT Matt Ioannidis had 2 1/2 sacks in Sunday’s win over the Giants, giving him 5 1/2 on the season.

–RB Adrian Peterson ran for 149 yards on 26 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown run, in Sunday’s win over the Giants. He also caught a 7-yard touchdown pass.

–QB Alex Smith was 20-32 for 178 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in Sunday’s win over the Giants. He ran three times for 13 yards and was not sacked.