X-and-O Show: Peterson for 51

The Vikings set the tone for Sunday's game on their first offensive play of the day: a 51-yard scamper by Adrian Peterson. We go to the film room to find out what went wrong on this crucial snap.

In Sunday's contest against the Minnesota Vikings, the Chicago Bears were knocked flat on their butts on the opening play of the game: a 51-yard run by Adrian Peterson. Five plays later, Peterson plowed in for his first touchdown of the day, giving the Vikings a seven-point lead that they never relinquished.

Peterson finished the day with 31 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Yet his biggest run was his first, a carry that set the tone for Minnesota's 21-14 victory. Let's break down AP's run to find out what went wrong for Chicago's defense.


The Vikings line up with a 1st and 10 at their own 20-yard line. QB Christian Ponder is under center and Peterson is alone in the backfield. The formation is unbalanced right. Two tight ends are lined up next to each other on the right edge of the line. This puts five blockers to the right of the center and only two to the left.

The Bears counter with a base 4-3. They stack two linebackers – Geno Hayes and Nick Roach – on the right side, as well as CB Kelvin Hayden, just outside of DE Corey Wootton. S Major Wright moves up into the box, a few yards behind LB Lance Briggs, who is lined up in the middle of the field. Before the snap, Briggs creeps up to the line of scrimmage in the strong-side A gap, next to NT Matt Toeaina.

The Play

RB Adrian Peterson & S Chris Conte
Bruce Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

At the snap, Ponder turns and hands to Peterson running toward the B gap on the right side. Briggs, who was lined up in near that gap, immediately blitzes to the weak side of the formation, completely taking himself out of the play. Toeaina is driven inside, as is Roach. Hayes gets sealed to the outside.

At the point of attack, Wootton splits the gap and gets penetration in the backfield. Yet he gets pushed inside just enough to allow Peterson to run right by him. Wootton is unable to change direction and doesn't even get a hand on the ball carrier. Hayden slides down the line and has a shot at the runner but Peterson runs right through the arm tackle.

Peterson bursts through the line of scrimmage up the right hash. S Chris Conte takes a horrible inside angle, allowing Peterson to easily cut outside. Peterson then throws Conte to the ground with a stiff arm before racing up the sidelines. CB Charles Tillman is able to come across the field and get in front of the runner, forcing Peterson to slow up and cut back inside. This gives Briggs enough time to chase the play down from behind and make the tackle. The run goes for 51 yards and gives Minnesota the ball at the Chicago 28-yard line.


The Vikings came out in a power running formation using an off-balanced line. They basically said: "We're going to run it and we're going to run it to the right side. We dare you to stop us." The Bears did not have an answer.

Everyone was blocked at the point of attack except Hayden, who could not get down the line fast enough to make the play. Toeaina was starting for the first time this season in place of Stephen Paea, who missed the game due to an foot injury. On his first snap, Toeaina gets plowed inside, showing why he's only been active on game day three times this season.

Wootton had a chance to stuff this play, exploding into the backfield at the snap. Yet he didn't have the awareness to find the ball carrier and he allowed Peterson to fly past him.

Yet the biggest mistakes on this play came from Briggs and Conte. Briggs was lined up right where the play was designed to run. Yet when the ball was snapped, he took off in the other direction. Had he stayed in his gap, or even just lined up in his regular linebacker spot, he could've had stopped this play at the line of scrimmage.

Conte has had trouble throughout his brief NFL career with tackling angles, which is beyond crucial for a free safety who serves as the last line of defense. On this play, he comes at the ball carrier far too shallow, obviously worried about the cut back. Yet Conte had help inside, so he should have taken a sharper angle toward the sideline. His bad angle allows Peterson to one-cut to the sideline, where he picks up an extra 40 yards.

The Vikings came out in this game with focus and determination. The Bears did not. This play set the tone for the rest of the game, a Chicago loss that hurts the team's chances at making the playoffs this season.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

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