GREEN BAY—Maybe the third time will, indeed, be the charm.
Twice this season, Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson has run through the Packers for big yardage totals. In those two games, Peterson has rushed for only 55 yards fewer than the Packers' leading rusher has for the whole season.
"That's where their whole offense starts, with Peterson," Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Thursday.
Truer words have never been spoken.
With Peterson having rushed for 409 yards and a 7.4 yards-per-carry average against the Packers this season, Capers knows that whatever hope his unit has of stopping the Vikings on Saturday night begins with denying Peterson another big game.
What would work? Holding him to a hundred yards? What yardage total constitutes stopping a man who has averaged 131 yards rushing per game this season?
"I can't put a yardage on it," Capers said. "We know how to do it. He just tests your discipline."
Capers said the common mistake the Packers made in their most recent game against Peterson was having been too aggressive in their pursuit.
"Sometimes you have to be patient and hold your leverage on the backside," Capers said. "You have to be able to whip blocks and tackle the ball."
If the Packers win this game, they'll advance to the divisional round of the playoffs and a game in San Francisco a week from this Saturday. If the Vikings score the upset win at Lambeau Field this Saturday night, the Packers will be one-and-done for the second consecutive season.
The drama couldn't be greater. They are two neighboring, division rivals, each trying to end the other's season. They are two star players, Peterson and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, performing under the bright lights of the playoffs.
"If you're playing in the playoffs, everybody is a good team and you have to make plays when you have the opportunities," Capers said.
The Packers had opportunities to make plays in Minnesota, but failures in long-yardage situations, such as Peterson's 28-yard run on second-and-27, dominate the Packers' memory of that loss.
"It starts with No. 28. You have to slow him down. I don't know that you can stop him," Capers said.
The Packers will try again.
It was the performance of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, however, that meant as much to the Vikings' win as Peterson's 199 yards rushing did. Ponder threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
"He's grown in terms of his decision-making. He's not taking as many chances. When he's outside the pocket, if it's not clear for him, he's going to tuck the ball and run with it," Capers said.
"Your goal is to get them in predictable situations and then disrupt the quarterback."
Predictable situations would depend first on stopping Peterson, whose success against the Packers has become all too predictable. Additional coverage - Jan. 3