It's rare when a player is the entire focus of a defense. Drew Brees is one of those players. Aaron Rodgers is another. Tom Brady is in that group too. But, as quarterbacks, their job is to spread the ball around to other players and, when things are going well, they're getting rid of the ball before defenders can make contact with them.
For running backs, it's a different story. For them to be successful, they have to attack a defense designed to stop them, often facing as many as eight or nine defenders in the box. In what promises to be the biggest battle at Lambeau Field Sunday, the war between Adrian Peterson and the Packers' defensive front seven will be this week's key matchup.
In the regular season opener, the Packers allowed Frank Gore 112 yards on 16 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown run. What made those figures significant is that the Packers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since and Gore's 23-yard run was the longest run the Packers have allowed all season.
Since then, Green Bay has been able to keep opposing running backs under control, including Matt Forte (7 carries, 31 yards), Marshawn Lynch (25-98), Pierre Thomas (9-14), Donald Brown (17-84), Arian Foster (17-29), Steven Jackson (12-57), Rashad Jennings (17-59), LaRod Stephens-Howling (17-51), Mikel Leshoure (19-84) and Ahmad Bradshaw (10-58). Running backs have had decent days against the Packers, but nothing like Peterson has shown in the last five games.
Peterson was viewed as a medical marvel through the first six games of the season, but still wasn't the A.P. that had taken the NFL by storm his first five seasons in the league. He had 79 or more rushing yards in five of his first six games, but had just one 100-yard game and had gone five straight games without a rushing touchdown. That would change in a big way over the last month.
Peterson has topped 100 yards in each of his last five games, rushing 100 times for 737 yards and five touchdowns. Not only is he enjoying one of the most prolific stretches of his career, he is averaging 7.4 yards a carry over that stretch. While the Packers haven't allowed a run of more than 23 yards all season, Peterson has had a carry of 23 or more yards in each of his last seven games.
There is no questioning that Green Bay will be locked and loaded to stop Peterson. Given their track record of bottling up elite NFL running backs like Foster, Lynch, Forte and Bradshaw, the Packers run defense is much improved from a year ago and has forced many opponents to become one-dimensional on offense. Seeing that the Vikings have their top receivers injured (Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph), the offensive emphasis should be even more on the shoulders of Peterson. He is seeking a franchise-record sixth straight 100-yard game, but will have to it against a team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 10 games. It will be a battle of strength vs. strength, making this the matchup to watch Sunday.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Key matchup: Peterson vs. stingy run ‘D'
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