The bad thing about good teams is that they learn from their mistakes.
In Week 13, Adrian Peterson ran for 210 yards against the Packers. Green Bay won the game 23-14, but it sent a message to the Packers that they can be beaten if a running back runs roughshod over them like Peterson did.
In the three weeks since, Green Bay has rolled their opponents by a combined score of 103-40 and much of the credit belongs to the Packers tightening up its run defense.
The Packers have effectively shut down the run since Peterson's monster day Dec. 2 – and it's not like they've faced teams that can't or won't run the ball.
Detroit's Mikel Leshoure carried 14 times for 49 yards in the Packers' Dec. 9 game and backup Joique Bell ran 12 times for 49 yards. The only player who ran for a touchdown was QB Matthew Stafford, who ran three times for nine yards.
In Week 15 at Chicago, the Bears tried to force-feed Matt Forte at the Packers defense. He carried the ball 20 times, but gained just 69 yards. As a team, the Bears ran 23 times for 83 yards and no touchdowns. Chicago's offensive bread and butter is trying to establish the run. The Packers didn't allow it.
Last week against Tennessee, the Titans tried to ignite their offense with Chris Johnson. He finished the game with 11 carries for 28 yards. Quarterback Jake Locker gained more yardage (32) running for his life after he dropped back to pass than Johnson gained all day. Granted, the Packers built a 20-0 halftime lead that forced the Texans to get one-dimensional (unsuccessfully), but, in the first half when the game was still in question, Johnson had eight carries for 17 yards – seven on one carry and 10 on the other six combined. The Packers clearly stopped the run once again.
While not elite running games, the Lions, Bears and Titans are teams capable of piling up yards on the ground. Yet, the Packers haven't allowed it. In the three games since the Vikings ran for 240 yards on 28 rushing attempts (a gaudy 8.6 yards a carry), the Packers have allowed 297 yards on 77 attempts (a pedestrian 3.9 yards per attempt) and the only rushing touchdown they have allowed has been to a quarterback.
It would seem the Vikings ground game explosion has lit a fire under the Packers and their own running game. In their first 12 games, Green Bay's offense ran the ball 325 times for 1,260 yards and three touchdowns – an average of 27 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown every four games. In the three games since, the Packers have run the ball 92 times for 370 yards and six touchdowns – an average of 31 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns a game.
Through Week 13, the Lions, Bears and Titans had combined to play 36 games and allow 22 rushing touchdowns – a combined average of 0.6 rushing touchdowns per game. The Bears were averaging 0.25 rushing touchdowns a game after Peterson went off on them. Since then, they've averaged two rushing TDs a game against teams that don't allow rushing touchdowns on a regular basis.
When the Vikings play the Packers Sunday, the top offensive priority is going to be getting a repeat performance out of Peterson. The Packers team they played in Week 13 was ripe for the picking and the Vikings took advantage of it.
Since then, the Packers have not only shut down decent running teams the last three weeks, they've re-emphasized their own rush game and shown significant improvement in that regard since Green Bay's defense was humbled/humiliated by Peterson.
Good teams correct their mistakes and move on. The Packers are a good team and, from the looks of things, they've corrected their mistakes and are prepared to prevent a repeat performance that would put Peterson in the all-time record books for single-season rushing yards.
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.
Packers have improved rush offense, defense
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