On Adrian Peterson's first run against the Detroit Lions last week, he broke through the middle of the defensive line, made one guy miss and was off to the races, rumbling 79 yards for the score. It was indicative of the homerun ability Peterson possesses on every single play.
The Chicago Bears are fully aware of Peterson's penchant for dominating opposing defenses, having been on the receiving end some of his most productive performances. Which is why, when the two teams square off tomorrow, all eyes will be on AP. If the Bears shut him down, they'll force Christian Ponder to beat them, which is a much more palatable option.
In order to make that happen, nose tackle Stephen Paea must be a beast inside. If the Vikings are able to consistently move Paea out of the hole, Peterson will have a ton of success running up the middle.
"Adrian Peterson is just a monster," Paea told Bear Report. "He wants to break records. We're not going to let him break records on us. Everybody has to do their job defensively and we've just go to make him run sideways. We have the speed to get him."
Paea understands that, as a nose tackle, his role is arguably the most important in limiting Peterson's success on the ground.
"He's the best running back in the NF," said Paea. "For me to go against him, I have to beat my block first, the center, and when he's there, I've just got to wrap him up. He's trying to break tackles so if I don't wrap him up in the backfield, he's going to get the extra yards. You've just got to take him down."
The Bears forced three turnovers in the season opener against the Bengals and the Vikings turned the ball over four times in Week 1. Peterson will put the ball on the ground on occasion and Chicago's defense knows it.
"One of the things that we've seen on him is he carries the ball out there," Paea said. We've got to punch the ball out. Do the most we can for their offense not to be on the field. The more time they're on the field the more time he gets to run the ball against us."
Paea was a monster in the first week of the season, picking up seven total tackles and half a sack. He showed his trademark power but also outstanding quickness, one of the many areas in which he's improved heading into his third NFL season.
"I read things quicker. I react to things quicker. Things are starting to get slow for me, especially this year in the offseason," said Paea. "Coach Trestman came in here with a high-intensity practice. Everything is fast, so when you go from practice to a game, it starts getting slower."
The Bears struggled to get pressure on Andy Dalton in Week 1, hitting him just once during the game. It's not something the defensive line is looking to repeat.
"We've got to get him down," Paea said. "We've got to put pressure on him and make him throw inside the pocket because we trust our safeties, our corners, our secondary that they are going to be in the back catching the balls. At the same time, we've just got to hit him."
Folks have pointed to the amount of quick passes the Bengals used as an excuse for the lack of pressure up front. Yet Paea isn't buying it.
"It's an excuse to say they were throwing the ball too quick," he said. "If you look at the film, there were a couple of times he held the ball over three seconds. That's a lot of time for us to get there."
After missing most of the preseason with a concussion, Henry Melton struggled in the opener. For Chicago to have success this year, he needs to quickly return to form and be the Pro Bowl player he was last season. If that happens, Paea believes the Bears' starting defensive tackle duo can be a collective force in 2013.
"Me and [Melton], we're the most athletic defensive tackle combo in the league," said Paea. "He's fast; I'm fast. He's quick; I'm quick. He's doing a great job of showing the defensive line, especially the defensive tackles, how to use your quickness and how to use your speed. For me and him to be on the same team, when we both have a great game, we're unstoppable inside. Nobody is going to run the ball or pass the ball."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.