Packers Get Second Crack At Peterson

Minnesota rookie running back Adrian Peterson is being compared to, well, a lot of guys these days. He’s been mentioned often in the same sentence as Eric Dickerson, and in the Packers’ locker room on Wednesday, at least two other names came up. - More | Audio | Video Packers-Vikings Game Center


Minnesota rookie running back Adrian Peterson is being compared to, well, a lot of guys these days.

He's been mentioned often in the same sentence as Eric Dickerson, not just because the two share an upright, powerful running style, but also because Peterson, with 1,036 yards through eight games, is on pace to break Dickerson's single-season rushing record for a rookie (1,808) and nearly on pace to break Dickerson's single-season record for any back (2,105).

In the Packers' locker room on Wednesday, at least two other names came up. The first was courtesy of defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, previously with the St. Louis Rams, who has felt like he's watching a former teammate in viewing film to prepare to face Peterson this Sunday.

"He'll bounce it to the outside, he can go to the inside, he can go anywhere," Pickett said. "Nobody can let up because he can hit anywhere on the field, and I haven't seen a back like that in a while, since I watched Marshall Faulk."

Meanwhile, linebacker Brady Poppinga had another all-time great on his mind when discussing the rookie's smashing early success, which has included a 224-yard rushing performance at Chicago in Week 6 and an NFL single-game record 296 rushing yards against San Diego last week.

"I think he's a guy who's really elusive in terms of not getting blown up on a big hit," Poppinga said. "I think another guy like that was Emmitt Smith. You couldn't ever really get a nice clean shot on him. He's always juking, jiving. He doesn't want to take a big shot, but that's sort of innately how he runs."

Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith. That's some pretty good company. And the Packers aren't going to argue, considering Peterson is the only running back to top 100 yards against Green Bay this season, rushing 12 times for 112 yards back in Week 4.

But here's another list to ponder: Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, Washington's Clinton Portis and Kansas City's Larry Johnson.

How many of them will end up in the Hall of Fame like Dickerson, Faulk and Smith is debatable, but those four are ranked anywhere from sixth to 14th in the NFL in rushing this year, and the Packers have held each one in check in 2007.

Those four have averaged 20 carries for 66 yards, a mere 3.3 yards per carry, against a Green Bay run defense that ranks a stout 8th in the league. So the Packers will by no means be intimidated, or inclined to shake things up dramatically on defense, simply because Peterson will be in the opposing backfield at Lambeau on Sunday.

"You can't be scared of him but you have to respect him," defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. "We'll have our game plan going in. Just like they're going to come in expecting to run the ball, we're going to go in expecting to stop him. We're not going to flinch because of what he did last week. We're going to try to stay consistent and do what we've been doing."

And unlike the Bears last month and the Chargers last week, the Packers get the benefit of having experienced a "sneak preview", as Jenkins called it, of Peterson back on Sept. 30. In that 112-yard effort, when Peterson was sharing more carries with Chester Taylor, he ripped off a 55-yard run and later in the game added a 51-yard kickoff return, giving the Packers a taste of his burst and elusiveness.

Film study of that game this week has been extensive, to say the least, and that should only help the Packers identify how they can contain Peterson better in the rematch.

"When we watch our game from earlier in the year, we know exactly what we were doing or what we were trying to do on each particular play," Jenkins said. "So it's something where we can really go back and study and see what they were trying to do or what they did to have success on us, or what we did to have success against them."

{sportsad300}The Packers can also compare their own film versus the Vikings with those of other teams that have slowed Peterson down.

Back in Week 2, Detroit held him to 66 yards on 20 carries (3.3 avg.), with a long run of just 11 yards (though he still topped 100 yards from scrimmage with four receptions for 52 yards out of the backfield). Then in Week 8, Philadelphia allowed Peterson just 70 yards on 20 carries (3.5 avg.), with a long of 17 and no receiving yards.

"I had a coach tell me once that a running back is like water (when there's a) a hole in the sink -- it's going to eventually find its way out," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "So you have to make sure there's no (leaks). You have to make sure you have everything plugged up.

"When you watch the things he's done explosively, you see where there's a breakdown here or there. When you watch the teams that have been successful on him, obviously they're doing a good job of making sure everything is plugged up, staying gap sound. So you watch both, and you see the things not to do, and the things to do."

Ultimately, Head Coach Mike McCarthy's message this week has been, as it is every week, for the team to work on sharpening and improving its own scheme and abilities, and not become overly distracted by the opponent.

That may be easier said than done with an NFL-record breaker coming to town, but the Packers' track record against the big-name backs has been solid thus far, and the team won't lose sight of that.

"Our game plan is to continue to focus on what we do," Kampman said. "Obviously he's a part of that, but we feel like we're a pretty good run defense as well, and if we continue to focus on doing what we do very, very well, hopefully we can have a good day."

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