It's Feast or Famine for Packers vs. Peterson

Adrian Peterson is in the defense's head, with that unit focusing too much on the Vikings' prized running back and too little on playing assignments and fundamentals. The Packers have owned Peterson on 48 of his carries in the two games. It's the other seven carries that have been crushing.

For the man they call "All Day," he'd probably like to run against the Green Bay Packers every day.

Of the six best rushing days in Adrian Peterson's magnificent history, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 have come against the Packers, with his 210 yards on Dec. 2 and 199 yards on Sunday joining his 192 yards in 2008. For good measure, Peterson's ninth-best day (175 yards last season) also came against the Packers.

"Maybe the third time will be the charm and we get him bottled up," defensive end Ryan Pickett said after Sunday's 37-34 loss that set up a rematch on Saturday night at Lambeau Field. "It's cool to get another chance next week to get this bitter taste out of our mouth."

Peterson is the unquestioned best running back of this generation, and his level of play seems to rise to otherworldly levels when he lines up to play the Packers.

"Maybe it's just the rivalry, man. Yeah, that's what it is," Peterson said during a conference call on Tuesday. "It's a rivalry and it's taking what's on the line. There's more emphasis on that game because we know that's a team that we have to beat in order to accomplish our goals we've set forth. Maybe that has something to do with it."

Peterson's performance on Sunday was remarkable. Even while allowing 199 yards on 34 carries, the Packers could point to numerous winning performances. Peterson lost yardage five times, was stopped at the line of scrimmage five times and held to a gain of 1 or 2 yards on five other occasions. He was held to 3 yards on a pair of first-and-10s and one second-and-10. Add all of that together, the Packers won the down on 18 of his carries.

When Peterson won, however, it was by throwing haymakers. He had seven runs of at least 10 yards, including gains of 28, 26, 22 and 20. It was much the same story as on Dec. 2, when Peterson had three runs for 153 yards and his other 18 managed 57 yards.

All told, Peterson has 249 yards on seven carries and 160 on the other 48.

"If anything, people have a tendency, and we probably did some of that on Sunday, to overplay the runner," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "It's important for us to focus on playing run defense. That's something I kind of felt that during the game and the film definitely illustrates that. He had a fine performance statistically and the film speaks for itself. He's had a great year. But we're really just focused on run defense and doing things the right way."

According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Packers missed the third-fewest tackles in the league with 65. Peterson, however, forced 10 misses in the two games and a stunning 375 of his 409 yards came after contact. Credit Peterson's brute strength and power for some of that, but also blame the defenders for bad fundamentals and not being in proper position to make a play.

"Watching the film, you could see the effort was there," safety Morgan Burnett said on Tuesday. "We really broke down the film. We had 11 guys going to the ball but sometimes when you get 11 guys running full speed to the ball, that causes you to overpursue. That's what (defensive coordinator Dom Capers) really broke down on the film and let us see where we've got to hold our leverage, don't get too nosey. If you're the back-side player, be waiting for the cutback. Don't get too nosey and overrun it and then he cuts back and then you're not there."

It's more than just playing the scheme. It's also a mind-set. On Peterson's 34th and final carry on Sunday, he ran for 26 against a 4-4 defensive alignment focused solely on keeping Peterson from setting up a shorter field goal.

"Hey, you can put 11 in the box," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in his conference call. "I mean we had a second-and-27 and he gets 28. We're never afraid to give it to No. 28."

Peterson's "All Day" nickname certainly is fitting. He is as tireless as he is talented. Three of his 20-yard runs on Sunday came in the second half, including the decisive run that gave Blair Walsh a chip-shot kick for the winner.

"I see (fatigue when) those hands go down to the waist," Peterson said. "I see slow body movement, and you can see it in their eyes. That's one thing I like doing is sitting back there in the huddle just looking across at the defense and looking in their eyes just to see where they're at because you can get a good feel emotionally where somebody stands throughout the game by looking them in the eyes and checking them out."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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