When the Green Bay Packers outlasted the Vikings 33-27 on Oct. 23, Peterson did the unthinkable by challenging Aaron Rodgers as the best offensive player on the field. Peterson, who runs with an unparalleled blend of moves, power, short-area explosiveness and breakaway speed, carried 24 times for 175 yards.
"Last time, we didn't feel like we played as good as we could have played in Minnesota," Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett said on Tuesday. "We feel like we could have put it away, and then we kind of let them back in the game. AP rushed for 175 yards. We felt sick after we even won that game. So, this is a good opportunity for us to right our wrongs."
The Packers did plenty of things right against Peterson. They held him to 2 yards or less on 10 of his 24 carries (not including a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter). It was the big plays that were the killer and kept the Vikings in the game despite Rodgers' brilliance.
On the drive preceding his 1-yard touchdown, Peterson had runs of 11 and 10 yards. Later in the second, Peterson broke free for a 29-yard run. The Vikings, however, inexplicably called three consecutive passing plays, and they wound up kicking a field goal after an incompletion, sack and incompletion.
In the third quarter, Christian Ponder threw his second interception immediately after Peterson's 25-yard run.
Peterson's big run was his 54-yard explosion on the final play of the third quarter in which he broke three tackles. On the first play of the fourth quarter, however, Clay Matthews dropped Peterson for a 5-yard loss, forcing the Vikings to settle for a field goal a few plays later.
"I think just every play, just being sound," linebacker Desmond Bishop, who finished with a team-high eight tackles, said of what was learned while watching the film the next day. "Every single play. Just being mentally conscious that on any one play, he can make it a big play. All 11 players have got to be sound, flow to the ball and just relentlessly pursue him. I think he had maybe 10 carries for 15 yards, and then he'd break three or four big runs and he got almost 200 yards. It's like, it looked worse on paper than it was. So, it's every play being aware that any play can be a big play, so you've got to play sound."
The Packers tightened up in the fourth quarter, holding Peterson to 12 yards on seven carries. On the Vikings' final drive, Peterson was stopped for no gain by Pickett. The Vikings then called four consecutive passes, eventually punted and never got the ball back.
In nine career games against the Packers, Peterson has rushed for 982 yards and scored six touchdowns. Of the 14 teams that Peterson has faced at least two times, his 5.2 yards per carry against the Packers trails only San Diego (8.6 yards in two games) and Detroit (5.3 yards in nine games).
To get that number under control, the Packers will need to do a better job of tackling. By our unofficial count, he broke five tackles in the Week 7 game, and according to ProFootballFocus.com, Peterson has broken a third-ranked 29 tackles this season. That goes a long way toward explaining why Peterson ranks fourth with 22 rushes of at least 10 yards.
If there's a saving grace, it's that Peterson will be running on grass. His season average is 4.8 yards per carry — 4.2 on grass compared to 5.2 on turf.
Peterson ranks third in the league with 798 rushing yards and is tied for the NFL lead with nine rushing touchdowns in eight games. The Packers, meanwhile, have plunged from No. 1 in the league in run defense after three games to a still-respectable eighth with 100.0 yards per game. However, they're 23rd with 4.6 yards allowed per carry.
"We have to tackle better," outside linebacker Erik Walden said. "Just make more of an emphasis on stopping him. Of course he's going to get his but you want to limit him and stop his explosive gains. If you can hold him to 4 here, 5 there instead of 25 and 30, we should be fine."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.