Aggressive Rams defense a ‘challenge’ for Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will have to be as sharp in protecting Teddy Bridgewater as he is running the ball Sunday against a blitz-heavy Rams defense.

Adrian Peterson admits what should the case: He has viewed a lot more tape of the St. Louis Rams defense than he has seen of Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley.

That should be the case every week, but this week more than ever. If pass protection is the Achilles Heel for Peterson, he has to hope his weakness isn’t a glaring one on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings face the St. Louis Rams.

What does Peterson see in the Rams defense?

“Very good. Extremely good. Since I can remember playing those guys, every time I’ve played them they’ve had a pretty solid defense,” Peterson said Thursday. “They do a lot of stuff. They throw a lot of different pressures at you. To be honest with you, I’m excited by the challenge.”

Peterson is no stranger to Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. That’s the same defensive coordinator who nearly hobbled Brett Favre with the Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship game and whose defense caused Peterson to fumble twice in that overtime loss that kept the Vikings out of the Super Bowl and led to Williams being suspended for his role in Bountygate.

But beyond that blemish on Williams’ record, he has been known as an aggressive defensive play-caller. He has been in St. Louis since the start of last season. While the Vikings handled the St. Louis 34-6 in the 2014 season opener, it was the Rams’ first game with Williams as their defensive coordinator.

“I think both defenses have come a long way. I looked at that game (on Tuesday) and you’ve got two different defensive units now,” St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. “Us in particular, we were in our first season with Gregg Williams and those kind of things take time. We weren’t fast; we weren’t playing the way we are now.”

But the Rams were still ultra-aggressive in their first season with Williams running the defensive show. According to Pro Football Focus, no team blitzed more frequently than the Rams last year, who brought an extra pass rusher 45.5 percent of the time that the opposing quarterback dropped to pass.

“Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams, that’s the way they’ve coached and the way they’ve prepared their team for the last 25 years,” Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “They have an attitude where they’re not going to sit back. They going to create and that’s where the similarity comes with our defense. You really see it with our defense on third down. With them, I think you see it in any down and distance.”

Said Peterson about Williams: “He’s very aggressive. I don’t know where he ranks, but of the defenses we have faced so far I would say he’s definitely the most aggressive guy we’ve seen this year,” Peterson said, adding with a smile: “Hopefully it don’t come back to bite him.”

Some Vikings players believe that the Rams defense might be better than the top-ranked Denver Broncos defense that the Vikings faced three weeks earlier. It’s a sentiment that Peterson said is a possibility, and Peterson admitted he wasn’t happy with his performance last year when the Vikings faced the Rams, even though Minnesota got the win.

“For any competitor, especially for me as a running back and knowing how good their defense is against the run and as a group how they play – they play aggressive, they play physical, they flock to the ball,” Peterson said. “I look at that as a challenge. The offensive line looks at that as a challenge as well. That makes you kind of itchy to get out there and play those guys. I’m glad we got them at home, which is a good thing. But we have a difficult task in front of us.”

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