Notebook: Defense Looks To Keep Peterson Grounded

The Achilles heel for Green Bay’s run defense this season has been allowing explosive plays, and this weekend they will face one of the league’s top big-play rushing threats in Minnesota’s second-year running back Adrian Peterson. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 5


The Achilles heel for Green Bay's run defense this season has been allowing explosive plays, and this weekend it will face one of the league's top big-play rushing threats in Minnesota's second-year running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson enters Sunday as the No. 2 rusher in the league with 823 yards on 176 carries (4.7 avg.), trailing only Washington's Clinton Portis (995 yards). He has six touchdowns and five 100-yard rushing games, including 103 yards against Green Bay in the Packers' season-opening 24-19 win over the Vikings.

"His vision I think is the biggest part of his weaponry," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "He's able to run and be able to see when the gaps are going to open before they open. He obviously has the speed, the size, the power, so with the vision it makes him a dangerous back to defend."

The Packers defense has had some success containing Peterson, giving up just 45 yards on 11 carries in last November's 34-0 win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

In this year's season-opening victory over the Vikings in Green Bay, the Packers held Peterson to only 28 yards in the second half on 10 carries after giving up 75 on nine rushes, including a 34-yard gain, in the opening half. Eleven of Peterson's 19 carries in the Week 1 victory were of three yards or less.

"We played disciplined," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "For some reason, I don't know, but the discipline we have when we play Minnesota, that's been the key to us stopping him. We play gap control, stay in our gaps, and we just played the scheme.

"When we do that, we're all right. It's when we get outside of our scheme when we have problems."

Those problems in '08 have manifested themselves in the form of big gains as the defense has allowed seven runs of 20-plus yards, which is tied for the seventh-most in the league. In 2007, Green Bay's defense gave up gains of 20-plus yards seven times all season.

"We'll go 13 plays without making a mental mistake, and just one situation and they make an explosive play," Barnett said. "We know that the ball is not bouncing our way every time, so we have to execute every single snap. That's what we're practicing and we're going to do it."

Of Green Bay's 1,171 rushing yards allowed this season, 269 of them, 23 percent, have come on the seven runs of 20-plus yards. Subtracting those seven, the Packers have allowed 902 yards on 232 carries (3.9 avg.).

Peterson has nine runs of 20-plus yards in eight games, including a 54-yard touchdown run at Chicago in Week 7 and a 40-yarder against the Houston Texans last Sunday.

"I'm not going to say he's going to be a guy that ever shuts it down, because just like Barry Sanders, you may hold that guy to 20 yards going into the fourth quarter and he may break an 80- and a 50-yarder on you," defensive tackle Colin Cole said.

"He's got the total package as far as running backs go. You've got to get 11 guys on him, 11 hats on him. The more hits that you give a guy like that the better off the defense is."

In three of Green Bay's four wins this season, the defense did not allow the opponent's back to rush for 100 yards, with the lone exception being Peterson in the season opener. As the Packers sit tied with Vikings in second place in the NFC North at 4-4, they know their ability to keep Peterson in check will play a key part in the outcome of the game as they look to extend their winning streak at the Metrodome to three games.

"We need to stop the run in order to win the game," Barnett said. "Everyone has to execute their responsibilities, be in their gaps, no peeking. If there is any time, it's definitely this time when we play Minnesota."

Versatility a factor

The Packers have had all five wide receivers active for just one game this year (vs. Atlanta in Week 5), and Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that players' abilities to contribute on special teams will continue to be a factor as the team makes decisions on the 45-man roster for game day.

Wide receivers James Jones and Ruvell Martin have both missed time this season due to injury, but all five wide receivers are healthy and available for the first time this season. On Sunday at Tennessee, Jones was a gameday inactive.

"It's going to be a challenge and it really comes down to special teams," McCarthy said. "It's something that we are creating competition through the week. The players are identified Tuesday on how we think we are going to sort out the board so we can game plan accordingly.

"It's disappointing for some individuals when they are not up on Sunday I'm sure, but you can't stand up there as a head coach and talk about the philosophy of your football team starts with defense and special teams and then come Sunday make all of your decisions on throwing the football for offense."

Rookie wideout Jordy Nelson, who started his first career game at Tennessee when the team opened up in a three-wide receiver set, caught two passes for 34 yards, including a 24-yarder, and also posted a career-long 40-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.

"If you are able to play more than one position on a team then it gives you a better opportunity," Nelson said. "It will be interesting to see how these weeks go now that we've got five guys healthy. We're all out going through our week preparing like we're going to play, and then whoever gets the nod will go out and do their best."

{sportsad300}The Packers' health on the defensive line also played a part on Sunday at Tennessee as the team had nine linemen active, a season high.

"Special teams factored into that too," McCarthy said. "Jason Hunter, (Kenny) Pettway, they play special teams, and so does Jeremy (Thompson). Mike Montgomery has been a solid player. We haven't played him much here late. It factors for all of those guys."

Injury/participation update

For the first time this season, the Packers had all 53 players on the active roster participate at least on a limited basis in a Wednesday practice leading up to a game.

The number of players on Green Bay's injury report was also a record low for the '08 season, with just four players listed.

Linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) was a full participant and tackle Chad Clifton (knees), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (right shoulder) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) all participated on a limited basis.

For Minnesota, defensive end Jared Allen, who is tied for fourth in the NFC with 7.0 sacks, did not participate Wednesday due to a shoulder injury. Former Packers receiver Robert Ferguson (not injury related) also did not participate.

Sunday replay

Green Bay's 19-16 overtime loss to the undefeated Tennessee Titans will be featured tonight on NFL Replay, a fast-paced 90-minute re-broadcast, at 8:30 p.m. CT on NFL Network.

The games are enhanced with exclusive material including distinctive shots and camera angles from NFL Films and its own sideline and on-field sound while eliminating halftime and other elements not critical to the outcome.

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