There will be dozens of individual matchups that will be critical to the Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers game Sunday, but this week there is one that will stand out and it will be without question the biggest determining factor as to who wins and who loses – as the grind between Adrian Peterson and Green Bay’s defensive front seven is the key.
While players view every game as being important to the success or failure of their team, there is a little something different when the Vikings and the Packers hook up. The Border Battle has a life of its own and often they are the most important games of the season for players and fans of both teams.
Peterson tried to downplay the significance of the rivalry, but eventually relented and acknowledged the significance that he has seen in his nine years as a Viking.
“Just the long history behind it,” Peterson said. “It’s a divisional game. Here the past couple of years, Green Bay has been the team to beat. Honestly, I do feel like they’re still the team to beat. We don’t take lightly what they’ve done before they’ve gone on a three-game losing streak. They’re going to come here ready to play.”
Peterson’s ownership of the Packers has been pronounced, a testament that he brings his “A” game every time he meets Green Bay. In his last 12 regular-season games between the teams, Peterson has scored 12 touchdowns. He’s been held without a touchdown just once in that span, has one game with two touchdowns and 10 with one TD, including each of his last six.
For his career, Peterson has played 14 regular season games against the Packers, rushing 302 times for 1,648 yards, caught 20 passes for 202 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. That works out an average of 22 carries for 118 yards, two receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown a game.
His assault of the Packers has been incredibly consistent and included eight 100-yard rushing games. It began as a rookie and has never let up. Prior to last season, Peterson had played the Packers twice a year in the regular season and the results have been pretty staggering – both in their totals and their consistency.
2007 – 23 carries for 157 yards; four receptions for 20 yards.
2008 – 49 carries for 295 yards and two touchdowns; four receptions for 44 yards.
2009 – 50 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns; two receptions for 44 yards.
2010 – 42 carries for 204 yards and one touchdown; three receptions for 57 yards.
2011 – 38 carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns; one reception for zero yards.
2012 – 55 carries for 409 yards and two touchdowns; two receptions for 12 yards and one touchdown. Peterson didn’t score in their meeting in the playoffs, but rushed 22 times for 99 yards and caught one pass for eight yards.
2013 – 45 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns; four receptions for 25 yards.
“We’re getting ready to play Adrian Peterson, obviously the best in the league running the football. We have a plan,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. “We’ll get a chance to exercise it today in the padded work. So, we’re up for the challenge and we know it’s going to be a four-quarter challenge with Adrian. He’s going to get his touches and we have to keep him contained. He’s been breaking out the long runs each and every week, so that’s definitely the focus of ours.”
Despite the fact that the Packers have made a concerted effort to stop Peterson, it has never worked. He has never gone more than three games without rushing for 100 yards against the Packers and his individual game totals have included days with 97, 99, 103, 112, 131, 146, 175, 192, 199 and 210 yards.
“I’d probably say he’s the best back that I’ve played against,” Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said. “There’s some very good ones in the league right now but just overall his body of work and what he’s capable of doing, not only between the tackles but on the outside, too. He presents a problem for defenses. That’s what makes it kind of special playing against special athletes is simply the fact that you get that opportunity. That’s me, personally. I feel he’s probably the best back in the league.”
Sunday’s game will be a battle of styles. The Vikings want to roll with Peterson for two reasons – because he is the focal point of the offense and the more times he carries the ball, time runs off the clock and doesn’t allow Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense on the field to do what they do so effectively against the Vikings.
“Any time you play a quarterback like Rodgers, you want to limit his opportunities,” Peterson said. “I feel like we can run the ball pretty good here and, when you do that, you’re kind of able to control the clock. It’s probably going to be part of the game plan.”
Like most teams, the Packers defensive game plan includes a heavy dose of shutting down Peterson. In past years, Peterson has more than produced his share of success and scores, but it hasn’t translated into wins. With an improved Vikings defense facing a struggling, banged-up Packers offense, the fewer opportunities Rodgers and the Green Bay offense gets will increase the chances the Vikings come away with a two-game lead in the division and a stranglehold on the tie-breakers, making Peterson’s battle with the Packers’ defensive front seven this week’s key matchup.