Packers Will Look Different To Peterson


For all the success Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson has enjoyed against Green Bay in his young career, the Packers are hoping the new elements they'll bring to Monday night's battle can change the results.

Those wildcards, if you will, are the 3-4 scheme and defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

In his four games so far against the Packers, Peterson hasn't faced a 3-4. Against the Packers' 4-3 alignment of the past, Peterson topped 100 yards in three of four outings, averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per carry in those three contests. Last year at the Metrodome was the most impressive showing - 30 carries for 192 yards, including the game-winning 29-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

The only time Peterson did not reach the 100-yard plateau against Green Bay was in the second meeting of 2007, when he was held to 45 yards on 11 carries and left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.

"The biggest thing I think with him is gap integrity and everyone doing their job and not trying to do too much," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "He'll exploit if there's mistakes. If there isn't, any defense that stays in its gaps is going to be able to do well. That's the challenge."

The defending NFL rushing champion and the current league-leader again, Peterson already has faced a 3-4 twice this season, against two very different teams and with dramatically different results.

In the season opener against still-winless Cleveland, he rumbled for 180 yards and three TDs on 25 carries. But then last week against a much-improved San Francisco team, he had just 85 yards on 19 carries.

The 49ers' defense against Peterson was even more impressive than those numbers suggest. They held him to two yards or less on 12 of his 19 carries, and only four of his 19 rushes went for more than four yards.

He did break off a 35-yard run on his third carry of the game, though, and that's the type of play defenses must guard against with Peterson, no matter how successful they are at bottling him up otherwise.

"The thing with him is you'll see teams execute their responsibilities and hold their gaps and keep holding and keep holding, and as soon as somebody messes up, he capitalizes on it," linebacker Nick Barnett said.

"We've got to be able to make sure we don't mess up and be very consistent. It's all about commitment in this game. We have to make a commitment and stick to it and not let up."

Capers, meanwhile, has put together a game plan against Peterson for the first time. A defensive coach in the AFC the last two seasons, Capers has never faced Peterson before, but it's obvious a lot of qualities stand out to the veteran defensive coordinator.

"All you have to do is watch a little bit of tape, and you see that one of the things that he does the best in my opinion of any back in the league is he really finishes runs," Capers said. "He looks, and when he feels contact near him, he's going to lower his shoulder and he's going to seek the contact. He'll attack tacklers just like they're attacking him.

"We need to get 11 guys going to the ball so if the first guy comes off then you've got two and three guys coming to get him on the ground."

Capers showed his creativity against the run last week by debuting the Packers' 'Big Okie' defensive package, which put a fifth linebacker (Brandon Chillar) in place of one of the safeties. It was designed specifically to give the Packers a little more muscle against bruiser Steven Jackson of the Rams.

The results were mixed. As Jackson carried 27 times for 117 yards and a modest 4.3-yard average - numbers the Packers almost certainly would take against Peterson - Green Bay stopped him for one, zero or negative yards an impressive 11 times. But nine times, Jackson found a crease and gained seven or more yards, with a long of 20.

{sportsad300}In short, it was feast or famine.

Whether or not Capers will employ 'Big Okie' against the Vikings remains to be seen. Minnesota has a far more polished passing game than St. Louis, with Brett Favre at the controls and speedsters on the outside like Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin, weapons the Rams didn't possess.

Capers said Peterson also presents a different challenge than Jackson because of his decision-making with the ball in his hands as well.

"We felt last week playing against Steven Jackson that he had very good vision and was a jump-cut guy, that if you stopped things to the front side, the play side, that he was going to plant his foot and come out the back side," Capers said. "The thing that Peterson has is he's got such great speed that if aren't careful and you don't hold the leverage, he can outrun you and get the corner on you. We have to make sure he doesn't get outside."

As well as cover the back side and the cut-back lanes. It's a daunting task, no doubt, and one the Packers hope their new additions on the defensive side can handle better than their predecessors.

"Everything has to start," Capers said, "with not letting Adrian Peterson control the whole tempo of the game."

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