Tales from the Tape: Stopping Peterson

The Vikings' Adrian Peterson is widely regarded as the top running back in the game. Yet this past Sunday, he was stifled by Chicago's defense. We analyze what the Bears did to hold him in check.

After getting gashed by Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best for 167 yards on the ground two weeks ago, the Chicago Bears rebounded this past Sunday against one of the league's top runners. The defense held Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to just 39 yards on 12 carries.

We analyze the majority of Peterson's runs to figure out exactly what the Bears did to hold him in check.


-1st and 10. The Vikings line up a two-tight-end set with QB Donovan McNabb under center. TE Visanthe Shiancoe is on the right edge and TE Kyle Rudolph is wing left. Peterson is alone in the backfield. The Bears counter with a 4-3. S Major Wright is on the line of scrimmage, showing blitz just outside of LDE Israel Idonije. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are a few yards deep of the line. Both are creeping up showing blitz. LB Nick Roach is on the right edge of the line, across from Rudolph.

At the snap, McNabb hands the ball to Peterson running middle right. The front five linemen block left, sealing the two defensive tackles and DE Julius Peppers. Shiancoe clears out Wright on the play side. Rudolph slides behind the line and kicks out on Idonije. Yet it's man coverage, so Roach follows Rudolph to the play side. He ends up smack dab in the middle of the hole. He drops Peterson for a one-yard gain.

This was a very poor play by the Bears defense and would have gone for a touchdown had Roach not followed Rudolph. Every other player, including both blitzing linebackers, was blocked. Peterson would have had S Chris Conte one on one in the open field, which most likely would not have gone well for Conte. Chicago was lucky on this one.

RB Adrian Peterson
Jamie Squire/Getty

-2nd and 9. The following play, the Vikings line up strong right, with three tight ends stacked on the edge of the line. The Bears counter by brining nine players into the box. Peterson runs off the right side. The entire front line crashes left. Rudolph tries to crash down on Wright, yet the Bears safety lowers his body and leans into the block, absorbing it cleanly and staying on his feet. As Peterson hits the hole, Wright disengages from Rudolph and takes the ball carrier down after a two-yard gain.

This was another play that could have gone for a touchdown if it weren't for one individual player. Wright was outstanding holding his ground and not allowing Rudolph to get any leverage. Wright has struggled at times but he's a hard-nosed, strong defender that is capable of plays like these in the trenches.

-2nd and 10. The Vikings use a four-receiver set with McNabb under center. Before the snap, Rudolph motions inside until he's line up behind RG Anthony Herrera. The Bears are in a nickel package with no one showing blitz. Peterson gets the ball running up the middle. DT Anthony Adams gets double teamed by C John Sullivan and LG Steve Hutchinson. Roach fills the left-side gap and Hutchinson peels off to pick him up. Sullivan the drives Adams five yards up field. Yet Adams is able to lower his base and get around Sullivan's left side, creating a pile of bodies at the point of attack. Idonije locks up with LT Charlie Johnson and does a good job of extending his arms and holding separation. Peterson cuts the play off tackle left. Idonije releases from the blocker and wraps up Peterson. Urlacher, who had filled up the middle yet was also able to release from his block, finishes the play.

Idonije has had issues all year standing his ground against the run, so this play shows progression. Adams has also struggled but was solid on this run. The job of a nose tackle is to stand firm in the middle, even in the face of a double team. Even though Adams was pushed backward, he still was able to muscle his way in front of the ball carrier.

-1st and 10. The Vikings line up strong left with McNabb under center. FB Ryan D'Imperio is off-set left in front of Peterson. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. Nine players are in the box. Peterson runs up the middle. Idonije, Adams and Urlacher all get ridden out of the play to the right side. In the middle, DT Stephen Paea is double teamed immediately by Hutchinson and Johnson. Paea keeps low and absorbs the impact. Hutchinson then peels off and clears out Urlacher. Paea uses his hands and brute strength to toss Hutchinson aside. He then smack Peterson in the middle of the field. The play goes for no gain.

Beyond getting a sack and safety on the second play of his career, Paea was also very good against the run. He showed the same strength he demonstrated at the scouting combine when he broke the all-time bench press record. On this play, he takes on the double team then tosses aside a seven-time All Pro lineman and makes the tackle.

-1st and 10. Minnesota lines up with trips right and QB Joe Webb in shotgun. Peterson is to his left. The Bears counter with a nickel package. Safety Major Wright is the seventh man in the box. Webb hands to Peterson running off-tackle right. At the point of attack, Paea explodes into RG Anthony Herrera then extends his arms and sits in the hole. Peterson has to cut back left where Idonije, who was unblocked on the backside of the play, takes him down. The play goes for a four-yard gain.

This was just another example of Paea being stout against the run. He keeps his hips low and does not allow himself to be moved. One thing is for sure: there isn't an offensive linemen in the game with as strong of an upper body, so as long as he stays low, Paea will be nearly impossible to move.

RB Adrian Peterson
Jamie Squire/Getty

-1st and 10. The Vikings line up with three tight ends on the left side. The Bears put eight in the box. Peterson runs off tackle left. The front five crash right and clean out the defensive line. Urlacher scrapes into the hole, forcing Peterson to bounce outside. CB Charles Tillman holds his ground against Rudolph, forcing the play back inside. Urlacher gets a hand on Peterson before Wright and Conte finish him off. The play goes for two yards.

This was a good job by Urlacher of filling the correct gap and forcing the play outside. The defense also did well in running to the ball – five players were around Peterson as he was being taken down.

-2nd and 10. The Vikings line up in I-formation with McNabb under center. The Bears put nine men in the box. Peterson runs up the middle left. Roach fills straight to the point of attack. He crashes into D'Imperio creating a pile that Peterson has to step around. The runner bounces outside and is chased down by five players. The play goes for a one-yard loss.

This was a great play by Roach of filling early and taking the fullback out directly in front of the ball carrier. It disrupted the play's timing and forced Peterson outside, where Roach had help.

-1st and 10. The Vikings line up with nine players along the front line. McNabb is under center and Peterson is alone in the backfield. The Bears counter with 10 players in the box. McNabb pitches to Peterson running outside right. Urlacher and CB Tim Jennings sprint to the sideline and beat the runner to the corner, forcing Peterson to cut it inside. DE Julius Peppers spins off his block and takes the runner down for a one-yard loss.

This was a great job of the entire defense sprinting to the ball and not giving the ball carrier any room to run.


The Bears continually put eight, nine and 10 players in the box when the Vikings showed run. Obviously they were not going to allow Peterson to beat them. Minnesota doesn't have much of a passing attack, so stacking the box won't always be an option going forward. But more than anything, the success of the defense in holding Peterson to just 39 yards came from a number of players putting together outstanding individual efforts.

One such player was Stephen Paea. After watching the tape, I cannot over-emphasize how well he played. His brute strength and ability to stay low and keep leverage made him nearly impossible to move. He was blowing Minnesota linemen off the ball on nearly every play. Chicago's coaches will have some tough decisions to make once Toeaina returns, which will be Week 9 at the earliest, but one thing is for sure, Paea needs to be on the field. With the way the defense has been gashed in the middle of late, his presence will go a long way.

Gap control was also another factor that aided in stopping Peterson. Bears linebackers did a much better job filling the correct gaps in the game, something they've struggled with for most of the season. Many of the big plays the unit has given up have been due to defenders at the second level running themselves out of the play. If they are able to build on this game and continue to correctly read their keys, this group can have success against the run going forward.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are also a run-oriented team with a struggling quarterback. Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli needs to follow the same plan of attack in London as he did at home last week.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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