Injuries Make Peterson Challenge Even Tougher

The Packers' run defense ranks third in the league but that unit hasn't faced this kind of challenge. Making matters more difficult will be the Packers using a pair of rookies at outside linebacker due to injuries. Their play will be key to preventing a replay of Peterson's big-play barrage.

Ready or not, here comes Adrian Peterson.

The Green Bay Packers' third-ranked run defense has made mincemeat out of the likes of Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Willis McGahee over the past three weeks. Peterson, however, is in a league of his own. Even in a down year – if a seventh-ranked 511 rushing yards and 4.4 yards per carry is a down year – no running back in the league can approach Peterson's ability to turn every run, no matter how well it's initially defended, into a touchdown.

"He's done some good things," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said in a conference call on Wednesday. "We haven't functioned as well on offense as we would have liked but it's not because Adrian is not giving it the same type of effort. We've just got to do a better job of getting some things done in our passing game along with getting some holes open for him. People are playing us the same way as they always have – a lot of people at the line of scrimmage to defend Adrian. We've got to find a way to get some things going, and we will."

Of Peterson's 2,097 rushing yards last season, almost 20 percent came against Green Bay as he sliced and diced the Packers' defense with an array of big plays. At Lambeau Field on Dec. 2, Peterson rushed 21 times for 210 yards. Green Bay's defense was excellent for most of the game but most of the time isn't good enough against Peterson. He was held to 57 yards on 18 carries but broke off runs of 82, 48 and 23 yards.

In the rematch four weeks later at the Metrodome, Peterson rushed for 199 yards on 34 attempts. Similar to the first game, it wasn't like Peterson was bleeding the Packers for 5 or 6 yards a carry. Rather, he had runs of 28, 26, 22, 20 and 18, giving him 104 yards on five carries and 85 on the other 29.

All told, Peterson rushed for 409 yards in the two games, or 204.5 per game. Everyone else combined in the 16 regular-season games averaged 106¬.2 per game. So, Peterson alone was the difference between the Packers ranking 17th in the league against the run instead of 12th.

"I liked elements about our run defense last year," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday. "When we've played Minnesota, we've played pretty good for about 20 plays, they haven't gotten anything and then for about 2 or 3 plays …"

The Packers will be challenged further by their personnel. With Clay Matthews out with a broken thumb, Nick Perry out with an injured foot and Mike Neal slowed by a sore shoulder, the Packers for the second consecutive week will be counting on rookie outside linebackers Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer at outside linebacker.

If ever there were a game where you'd want your two most-physical and most-experienced outside linebackers to show their force and savvy to keep an elite player contained, this would be it.

"I thought Nate and Andy were solid," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "Their roles, specifically what they were asked to do, I though they did that. I thought they were assignment-sound. Technique can improve. Impact was probably not what they, you know, what they wanted. So, they definitely took a step forward from last week and I for them guys to get better this week, and hopefully have more of an impact against the Vikings.

If not for injuries, Mulumba might be getting a smattering of snaps on defense and Palmer might not even be on the game-day roster. Instead, they'll be tasked with stopping the baddest running back on the planet.

For Capers, the approach is simple: Keep it simple.

"We have our base scheme but, obviously, you're going to adjust that based off of who's out there," Capers said. "I think a lot has to do with how much can they handle and execute efficiently. I think you make a big mistake if you try to throw it all at these young guys because they're going to get overwhelmed and then they aren't going to perform as fast and play as confident as you'd like for them to play."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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