The New England Patriots let Knowshon Moreno run for 134 yards in their season opener. Now they must face Adrian Peterson.
“You know what? I love it,” defensive tackle Sealver Siliga said Wednesday. “This is going to be a good test and I think our team’s real excited.”
One week after Moreno led the Miami Dolphins’ 191-yard rushing attack in a 33-20 win over New England, the Patriots visit Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“First-game jitters or whatever you want to call it,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “For us to want to be a great defense, which is something that all of us agreed we wanted to do, you definitely can’t allow the offense to run the ball the way they did.”
The Patriots also had trouble stopping Lamar Miller, who rushed for 59 yards.
Now they’re preparing for another one-two punch of Peterson and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Peterson rushed 21 times for 75 yards in last Sunday’s 34-6 win over the St. Louis Rams after finishing second in the NFL last season with 90.4 yards rushing per game. Patterson ran three times for 102 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown.
“He’s definitely a tremendous athlete,” Hightower said of Patterson. “You don’t see many guys who can do that, come out and play receiver and then actually line up in the backfield and run the ball like a running back.”
But Peterson is the most dangerous threat to a New England run defense that was weak last season — better than just two teams — and got off to a bad start despite the return of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jared Mayo from injuries that sidelined them most of last season.
Mayo led the Patriots with 12 tackles against Miami, but Wilfork had just two and Hightower was limited to just one unassisted tackle.
“We were really disappointed but (it’s) a new week, a new game,” said Siliga, who had six tackles. “All we can do is look forward and learn from what happened and get ready for the Vikings because that’s going to be a tough job.”
The burden will be on the defensive line to wrap Peterson up and not let him get to the linebackers’ level. Once there, he’s liable to take off on another long run.
He has 15 runs of 58 yards or more in his seven seasons before this year. He’s run for touchdowns of 64 yards or more in six of those seven seasons. And he’s rushed for at least 10 touchdowns every year.
“He’s big. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s smart. He has great vision,” Hightower said. “He has everything in a running back that you’d want. It’s going to take all of our guys being at the point of attack and everybody getting to the ball, so he’s not getting that one-on-one matchup to break that tackle and get those extra yards.”
If Peterson is contained, New England still must contend with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system with Matt Cassel throwing against his former team.
Cassel expects the Patriots defense to rebound from their poor performance against the Dolphins.
“They always make adjustments and then come back even stronger after a loss,” he said. “I’m sure there will be changes that they make in terms of scheme and everything else to get it figured out.”
That still may not be enough to keep the powerful, shifty Peterson from running through their defense.
“A guy that big, you wouldn’t expect him to be able to hit those cuts and those jump cuts that he does,” Hightower said. “But that’s something that he’s very good at and definitely one of the reasons why he’s one of the better backs in the league.”
Siliga was sidelined for much of the preseason and played against Miami with a heavy wrap on his injured left hand as a precaution.
He could be wearing it again Sunday when he tries to tackle Peterson.
“He’s hard enough back to take down with two hands, let alone one,” Siliga said, “but I’m up for the challenge.”
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