It made an impressive statement Sunday in Minnesota's 23-6 win at Houston. The six points allowed by the Vikings defense was the lowest total in more than five years – since the first game of Peterson's career.
Even more impressive is that it came against the Houston Texans, who entered the game with a 12-2 record and were playing at home. They were only the second team in the past 50 years of NFL play that didn't score a touchdown in a game they entered in which they were at least 10 games above .500, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The last time that happened was also in 2007, when the Cowboys were 12-1, hosted the Eagles at Texas Stadium and lost 10-6.
"Our defense was terrific throughout that game, probably our most complete game as a team, without question – our best game of the season from a defensive standpoint," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
The Vikings frustrated Houston QB Matt Schaub throughout. He finished with 178 yards passing, a total that was whittled down to 153 net yards passing after taking into consideration the sack yardage.
The Vikings were aggressive from the outset, sending two linebacker blitzes – one with Erin Henderson and another with Chad Greenway – in the first five times Schaub dropped back to pass. It became a bit of a theme as the game advanced.
"Just the situation we were in, we were trying to get off the field in those critical situations, critical downs. We came a lot in a row," Greenway said. "Not me personally, but as a linebacker group in general, we came probably the most we have this year."
On Houston's second series, the Vikings continued to mix up the coverages and rushes, bringing both Jasper Brinkley and Greenway on a blitz and dropping Everson Griffen into coverage. Greenway got a hit on Schaub, helping force an incompletion that was part of a three-and-out series, and Greenway and Brinkley blitzed on separated downs in the next series that ended with Brinkley forcing one of two fumbles the Vikings recovered.
At times, they rushed as many as six players and at times as few as three. Fifteen games into the season, defensive coordinator Alan Williams seems comfortable calling a variety of different blitz packages and defenses.
"As the season has gone on, he's gotten more familiar with our players and what their strengths and weaknesses are. We are without question playing our best ball on defense and this is where you want to be doing it at. You don't want to start off great in September and October and then all the sudden you're fizzling in December," Frazier said. "It's great to see how we've grown as a team and we're growing on defense as well.
"He's grown more accustomed to what our guys' strengths and weaknesses are and he's utilizing guys in a good way. The things that we did game-plan wise, our defensive staff did a great job throughout this last week preparing for Houston, which is a very good offense – one of the top offenses in our league. Alan and the rest of the defensive staff did a terrific job. But, yes, he has really adapted to our guys and what their strengths are."
The defensive statistics attest to that. The Vikings had four sacks and only two of them came from defensive linemen – Jared Allen and Fred Evans. The other two came from defensive backs Antoine Winfield, coming on a corner blitz form the slot, and Harrison Smith when he chased down backup QB T.J. Yates from behind and knocked the ball loose.
Defensive backs Smith, Winfield and A.J. Jefferson were all credited with quarterback hits, as were linebackers Greenway and Brinkley.
"The last two weeks you've probably noticed that we've done a few more of those things," Greenway said of the blitzes. "It's not really our M.O., but you have to do those things, especially when you've got to give somebody a different look. Otherwise you put the same thing on tape over and over, and obviously they are going to start to figure it out. Give people some different looks and now we move forward to Green Bay, who obviously knows what we are going to do for the most part because they see us a lot and we have a lot of like opponents. But hopefully we can throw something different at them."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.