Peterson Gets Stacked Boxes for Holidays

New knee braces or not, Adrian Peterson is seeing more and more teams sell out to stop the running game. Plus, we check the halftime pulse of the team the last two games and examine how former Vikings quarterbacks are playing a big role in Minnesota's playoff hopes.

Merry Christmas, Adrian Peterson. The NFL wrapped up some stacked box waiting for you to slice through.

Despite the Vikings' best efforts to get their running game going these last three games, the San Francisco 49ers brought pressure from the edges and the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins used different methods of stacking the line of scrimmage and forcing someone other than Peterson and Chester Taylor to beat them.

It was more than just a safety creeping into the so-called box to jam up the Vikings' running game.

"Actually, in some formations they brought in some extra defensive linemen and had an extra linebacker in so they were definitely trying to stop the run," Peterson said of the Redskins' strategy on Sunday night.

Childress said Peterson is no longer a "secret" in the NFL anymore. He was never a secret, but after 224-yard and 296-yard rushing efforts in the first half of the season, defenses have definitely approached the Vikings differenty in the stretch run of the season.

"I can't remember the last time I saw a seven-man front," Peterson said. "But coming into the game, you know that and you know you have to fight for those yards and eventually something will open up, but we all have to give credit to the Redskins, they came in and fought hard."

Peterson said his brace – actually, his braces, as in plural – on his right knee haven't been an issue. After tearing the lateral collateral ligament in his knee against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 11, Peterson sat out the next two games – both wins – and rejoined the team for their next two wins.

But it has now been four games since he last had a 100-yard rushing game. He switched to a different brace against the Chicago Bears last week, and on Sunday night was wearing a lighter, less cumbersome brace against the Washington Redskins.

He looked to have all of his pre-injury quickness back, but there was little room to run.

"We're going to have to do a few different things in terms of running the football and throwing the football," Childress said of defenses' different approaches lately. "It will probably come back to the quarterback, the wide receivers and the tight ends being able to beat people and show that you're going to beat them that way as opposed to running the ball."

With the Vikings' running game muffled with Peterson and Taylor combining for only 41 yards on 15 carries and Jackson throwing two first-half interceptions to help the Redskins to a 22-0 halftime lead, Washington was able to keep working its rushing attack. Between running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, quarterback Todd Collins and fullback Mike Sellers, the Redskins amassed 106 yards on 32 carries, the first 100-yard effort by the opposition in the Metrodome this season.

They had given up 128 yards and 120 yards previously this season to the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, but both of those performance were on the road.

"You earn every inch here," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. "I've got great respect for them. They are extremely tough. You can understand why they have that many Pro Bowl players and a bunch of them on defense. They are a very physical, tough bunch of guys and the two things you probably want as a coach in most situations is to be able to run it. They are No. 1 in the league running it, and stopping it. You have to give them a big thumbs-up on that. Our guys knew it, we were going to have to play an outstanding game. We knew we were going to have to earn every inch. I was proud of our guys to be able to get that many yards rushing. It's hard to do."

And getting harder for the Vikings to accomplish as well.

HALFTIME HUMBLING

The Vikings offered several Jumbrotron messages of thanks for their fans on Sunday night, but after the second consecutive prime-time game in which quarterback Tarvaris Jackson had thrown two first-half interceptions, the crowd booed the Vikings going into the halftime locker room.

"I completely understand," said linebacker Ben Leber. "We did not perform very well and it was not the team that the fans have seen over the past few weeks. With the turnovers that we have had, and the defense did not respond as we would have hoped, I can't say that we didn't deserve it a little bit."

Several Vikings said there wasn't panic at halftime of either of their last two game – they trailed 22-0 to the Redskins and 13-6 to the Bears.

Everybody was optimistic, knowing that we can go out and played a lot better than we played the first half," defensive tackle Spencer Johnson said Sunday night after the loss. "Like I said, Washington came out and they played with a lot of fire. They had a lot to play for too tonight and they came out on top."

Both team were fighting for their playoff hopes. With a win, the Vikings would have assured their spot in the playoffs and the Redskins would have been eliminated. Instead, the Redskins can now get into the playoffs with a win on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in Washington. It's a far cry from where the Redskins were three weeks ago, dealing with the murder of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor and sitting with a 5-7 record after four straight losses.

"I think once we got our angel situated up in heaven, he gave us all the strength in the world, and now guys go out and just play and have fun," Portis said, referencing Taylor.

HILL SHAKES UP PLAYOFFS

It's uncertain if the Vikings will make the playoffs, but if they do, one of their former quarterbacks was changing the complexion of the playoff standings over the weekend. Former Vikings QB Shaun Hill helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to an upset over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs' loss meant they fell to the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs and the Seattle Seahawks will be the No. 3 seed.

If the Vikings get in as the No. 6 seed, they will be traveling to Seattle. If they beat the Broncos next Sunday in Denver and the Redskins lose to Dallas, the Vikings would get into the playoffs.

Another former Vikings quarterback, Brad Johnson, could play a role in the Redskins-Cowboys game. Because the Cowboys have already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, they might not be inclined to play their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, as much or at all on Sunday against the Redskins' formidable defense. That would leave Johnson, who also played for the Redskins, to lead the Cowboys offense.

Ironically, it was a poor performance from the Green Bay Packers in their loss to the Chicago Bears that allowed the Cowboys to take the No.1 seed. The Packers loss originally had some Vikings fans cheering Green Bay's misfortunes, but that Packers loss could cost the Vikings a playoff berth if Dallas doesn't give a full effort and rests some of its starters.

"That's the nature of the business," Childress said. "(The Cowboys) are looking at I'm sure being able to give it their best shot in their playoff run. We've done it before (when Childress was with the Philadelphia Eagles). When you have nothing to gain in terms of positioning, you kind of weigh where you think you're going to be freshness-wise and sharpness-wise to what you need to do in the game you're playing."


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