In the NFL, there is a level of pride and confidence in what you do that often clashes with the strength of an opponent. Perhaps at no point this season has there been a clash of styles in which both teams are convinced that they not only have an edge, they have the ability to dominate.
The Minnesota Vikings have the NFL’s No. 1 rusher in Adrian Peterson. Through 10 games, he is the only running back in the NFL that has topped 1,000 yards. His impact on Vikings games can’t be denied. In Minnesota’s seven wins, Peterson’s rushing numbers have been as follows – 29 carries-134 yards-0 TDs, 20-126-2, 26-60-0, 19-98-0, 20-103-0, 29-125-1 and 26-203-1.
In those seven games, he has never carried fewer than 19 times and has carried 26 or more times in four of those seven wins, making him the true definition of a workhorse running back.
In the Vikings’ three losses, we have seen the flip side of the coin. Peterson’s rushing numbers in those three games have been 10-31-0, 16-81-1 (48 of those coming on one rush) and 13-45-1.
It’s no coincidence that the three games the Vikings have lost have been games in which Peterson wasn’t a big part of the offense.
As the Vikings meet the Atlanta Falcons today, they will be going up against the best run defense in the NFL. Not only do they lead the league, they have been at their best shutting down the power backs that have been their opponents’ leading rusher and it has been done all season long.
The list is a who’s who of NFL running backs, including Philadelphia’s DeMarco Murray (8-9-1), New York Giants’ Rashad Jennings (9-12-0), Dallas’ Darren McFadden (6-35-1), Houston’s Arian Foster (8-10-0), Washington’s Alfred Morris (8-15-0), New Orleans’ Mark Ingram (20-46-2), Tennessee’s Antonio Andrews (10-57-0), Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (23-71-0), San Francisco’s Shaun Draughn (16-58-0) and Indianapolis’ Frank Gore (14-34-0).
Will Peterson be the next in a long line of running backs that have been bottled and throttled by the Falcons? Or will Atlanta be the latest in a long line of Peterson victims?
We will find the answer to that question this afternoon and whoever dominates that battle will almost certainly come away with the win.
VIKINGS-FALCONS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 29th -ranked offense (3rd rushing, tied for 30th passing) and the ninth-rankled defense (tied for 17th rushing, 6th passing).
- The Falcons have the fourth-ranked offense (13th rushing, 5th passing) and the 10th-ranked defense (1st rushing, 18th passing).
- Minnesota is averaging 330 yards a game (188 passing, 142 rushing). Atlanta is averaging 400 yards a game (287 passing, 113 rushing).
- The Vikings are allowing 335 yards a game (225 passing, 110 rushing). The Falcons are allowing 336 yards a game (248 passing, 88 rushing).
- Minnesota is tied for 12th in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-1 (11 takeaways, 10 giveaways). The Falcons are tied for 15th at minus-1 (17 takeaways, 18 giveaways).
- The Falcons are ninth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 23 of 37 possessions (62.2 percent). The Vikings are 28th at 42.9 percent (12 touchdowns on 28 possessions).
- Minnesota is fifth in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just 12 of 27 possessions (44.4 percent). Atlanta is tied for 26th at 63.6 percent (21 touchdowns on 33 possessions).
- The Falcons are fourth in third-down offense, converting on 66 of 145 opportunities (45.5 percent). The Vikings are 22nd at 35.4 percent (45 of 127). The league average is 38.5 percent.
- Minnesota is fifth in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 43 of 131 opportunities (32.8 percent). Atlanta is 23rd at 41.4 percent (53 of 128).
- The Vikings lead the league in average starting position following a kickoff at the 24.7-yard line. Atlanta is 16th with an average starting position of the 21.4-yard line. The league average is the 21.5-yard line.
- Matt Ryan has three 300-yard passing days. Teddy Bridgewater has one.
- Atlanta has allowed two 300-yard passers this season. The Vikings have allowed one.
- The Falcons have eight 100-yard receiving games this season – six from Julio Jones and one each from Leonard Hankerson and Jacob Tamme. The Vikings have three – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Kyle Rudolph.
- All six of Jones’ 100-yard receiving games have been of 135 yards or more.
- Atlanta has allowed five 100-yard receivers. Minnesota has allowed three.
- Peterson has five 100-yard rushing games. Injured Devonta Freeman has four.
- The Vikings have allowed three 100-yard rushers. The Falcons haven’t allowed any.
- Ryan is fourth in the league in pass attempts (403), fourth in completions (264), eighth in completion percentage (65.5), fourth in yards (2,982), tied for 13th in touchdown passes (15), tied for 23rd in interceptions (10) and 19th in passer rating (89.4).
- Bridgewater is 24th in attempts (291), tied for 20th in completions (188), 12th in completion percentage (64.6), 23rd in yards (2,106), 29th in TD passes (8), tied for 19th in interceptions (6) and 21st in passer rating (86.6).
- Ryan is 22nd in fourth-quarter passer rating at 85.4. Bridgewater is 23rd at 82.3.
- Bridgewater is 16th in third-down passer rating at 88.5. Ryan is 17th at 87.4.
- Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 1,006 yards – 65 yards ahead of second-place Doug Martin. Freeman is currently tied for fifth at 764 yards, but he won’t play Sunday, so he will fall down that list.
- Jones leads the NFL in receptions with 89 – 10 more than second-place Antonio Brown. Diggs leads the Vikings with 36 receptions, which ties him for 58th place.
- Jones also leads the league in receiving yards with 1,189 – 48 more than Brown. Diggs leads the Vikings with 573 yards, which ranks him 34th.
- Freeman is tied for first in scoring among non-kickers with 66 points (11 touchdowns). Jones is tied for ninth with 42 points (seven touchdowns). Peterson leads the Vikings with 36 points (six touchdowns), which ties him for 23rd place in the league.
- Blair Walsh is eighth in the league in scoring among kickers with 83 points. Matt Bryant is 18th with 68 points, but he’ll drop this week because he is out with a quad injury.
- Falcons punter Matt Bosher is also their kickoff specialist and is fifth in the league in touchbacks on kickoffs with 38. Walsh is tied for 12th with 28.
- Jones leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 1,189 (all receiving). Freeman is second with 1,184 yards (764 rushing, 420 receiving). Peterson is fourth with 1,160 yards (1,006 rushing, 154 receiving).
- Bosher is second in the league in punting average at 48.7 yards. Jeff Locke is last in the league with an average of 41.7 yards.
- Bosher is ninth in net punting average at 41.8 yards. Locke is 29th at 38.0 yards.
- Atlanta’s Eric Weems is third in the league in punt return average at 12.0 yards. Marcus Sherels is sixth with a 10.5-yard return average.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is third in the league in kick return average at 29.2 yards. Weems is seventh at 25.6 yards. Only 15 of the 32 teams have a player with enough returns to qualify for the league lead.
- Everson Griffen is tied for 11th in the league in sacks with 6½. No Falcons defensive player has more than two sacks.