Adrian Peterson can have his yards on Sunday at Lambeau Field. But that won’t necessarily equate to a Minnesota victory.
If you want to beat the Minnesota Vikings, everyone knows what you need to do first: Stop Adrian Peterson. Or at least slow him down. But the conventional wisdom is not always correct, and in this case I believe that it is, at the very least, highly debatable, if not outright false.
Coming into this season, the Packers had played the Vikings four times in the Adrian Peterson era. In those games, Peterson racked up 452 rushing yards, second only to Barry Sanders (480) among all runners in their first four games against the Packers. That’s a 113-yard average. Much was made of those numbers coming into the first Packers-Vikings matchup of this season. But what was not mentioned was that the Packers had won three out of those four games. How did it happen? Let’s take a closer look.
Game One: At Minnesota, Peterson rushes for 112 yards on just 12 carries, but the Packers win, 23-16. This game is infamous for the fact that Brad Childress virtually abandoned the running game in the second half, after Peterson had rushed for 108 yards in the first half. While it is clear that Childress should’ve gotten the ball to Peterson more in the second half, a fact that is seldom remembered is that the Packers were leading the Vikings at halftime of that game, 10-6. That’s right: Peterson gouged the Packers for 108 yards, but the Vikings only scored 6 points. This demonstrates one of my pet theories: Rushing teams score field goals. Passing teams score touchdowns.
Game Two: At Green Bay, Peterson rushes for 45 yards on 11 carries before being knocked out of the game in the third quarter, and the Packers win in a blowout, 34-0. The conventional wisdom holds true here. The Packers kept Peterson under control and they won the game.
Game Three: At Green Bay, Peterson rushes for 103 yards on 19 carries, and the Packers win, 24-19. Peterson’s good day running the ball is not enough to lead the Vikings to a win, and when they get behind late, the running game has to take a back seat because it takes too much time off the clock.
Game Four: At Minnesota, Peterson runs all over the Packers, 30 carries for 192 yards, and the Vikings win 28-27 as Mason Crosby misses a field goal in the final minute. Peterson was the hero, but in spite of his gaudy numbers, the Packers came within an eyelash of winning the game.
This brings us to Game Five, just a few weeks ago. This time, the Packers shut down Peterson more effectively than ever before, holding him to 55 yards on 25 carries (2.2 YPC), yet the Vikings won the game 30-23 and pretty much had it in the bag when they built a 30-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Taken together, these results do not support the notion that shutting down Adrian Peterson is the key to beating the Vikings. And that notion makes even less sense now that the Vikings have a good quarterback and better receivers than they had during the previous two years.
When you play the Vikings now, you must pick your poison. And given a choice between a vial labeled “Peterson” and a vial labeled “Favre, Rice, Harvin, Shianco, et. al” I say it is wiser to choose the vial labeled “Peterson.” Let him get 100 yards. Hell, let him get 150. He may even break off one or two long ones. But the priority should be disrupting the passing game and not allowing Brett Favre and his receivers to get into a rhythm.
Unfortunately, the Packers seemed to have the opposite strategy going into their first meeting with the Vikings. The lack of pressure on Favre in that game was nothing short of a disgrace. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake again on Sunday. And if that means that the run defense is a little soft, so be it. Adrian Peterson is not going to win the game single-handedly.