Beast vs. Beast Mode as Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch square off

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — One has earned the
well-fitting moniker of Beast Mode, the other was simply called a beast as he
attacked a 28-year-old NFL record months after reconstructive knee surgery.

There are differences, but there are many similarities in
the running styles of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
They’ve also been the top two running backs in the NFL since 2011, Lynch’s
first full season with the Seattle Seahawks.

The rushing charts topped by Peterson, the Minnesota
Vikings’ MVP running back and Lynch, Seattle’s physical pounding runner. Since
2011, Peterson leads the NFL with 3,853 rushing yards and Lynch is second with
3,665 yards. Peterson has a league-leading 33 rushing touchdowns to Lynch’s
second-place total of 30.

Very few backs match up favorably to Peterson these days,
but Lynch might come the closest in production and style.

“They’re both beasts, that’s the way to explain
it,” said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who will have to keep Lynch
corralled this week when Minnesota plays Seattle. “It’s fun playing against
him, I love playing against Marshawn. If you can’t get up to a game plan
against him, he’s going to let you know about it. That’s what’s fun about him.
Those two are probably most similar to each other than anyone in the
league.”

Lynch can’t match Peterson’s game-breaking speed, but both
are tough runners who do a lot of their work inside.

“He’s got the power, he’s go the ability to run through
tackles,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said of Lynch. “You don’t
see him get knocked down by one guy very often. He runs through contact often.
He’s more of a between-the-tackles type of runner. You’ll see some runs on the
perimeter, but more inside runs. Long runs? I think he’s leading the lead in
10-plus runs. So he’s a very impressive back. We have to get a lot of people
involved to tackle him.

“But Adrian? Adrian is in a class by himself. I have a
lot of respect for Marshawn’s talents and what he’s accomplished. But there’s
only one Adrian Peterson.”

For the past three seasons, the Vikings and Seahawks have
been blessed to have their star runner on their side. Minnesota sees Peterson
in practice every day, but doesn’t face the full power of the reigning MVP’s
game.

A matchup against Lynch is the closest the Vikings come to
knowing what it would be like to have to handle Peterson at his best.

“Oh, goodness, same challenge in stopping AP,”
Allen said of matching up with Lynch. “He’s a big back, he’s physical,
downhill, but has the speed and the power. He can get to the edge and take any
play to the house. He’s physical, you have to hit him and wrap him up. We have
to tackle, have to gang tackle. You have to get more than one guy to the ball,
that’s for sure.”

Peterson and Lynch arrived in the NFL together, both
first-round draft picks in 2007. Peterson, the first running back taken, was
selected by Minnesota out of Oklahoma with the seventh-overall selection.
Lynch, out of California, went to the Buffalo Bills five picks later. Together
they’ve accounted for eight Pro Bowl selections and more than 16,000 rushing
yards.

Peterson leads the NFL in rushing since 2007 when the two
came into the league with 9,635 yards. Lynch ranks fifth on the list with 7,003
career rushing yards, trailing Chris Johnson, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson.

“He’s a guy, we came out together, we train together
down in Arizona,” Peterson said. “So I know his mentality and I
respect him as a running back. He definitely carries the nickname ‘Beast Mode’
very well.”

As for their styles?

“Well, we’ve got different styles,” Peterson said.
“But as far as the way we run, as far as the aggressive part, he
definitely reminds me of myself. I’m sure he would say the same thing.”

Few realize Lynch can match Peterson’s productivity. Despite
Peterson reaching 2,000 rushing yards last year and falling eight yards shy of
the single-season record, Lynch actually leads the league in rushing since Week
9 of the 2011 season with 3,402 yards. Peterson falls second on the list with
3,058 but has done his part with 563 carries to Lynch’s 717 carries over that
span.

The training sessions with Peterson and Lynch around draft
time in 2007 also included the likes of Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson and San
Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis; four of the top 11 picks in 2011 and some
of the biggest stars in the league.

“You can just imagine what kind of mindsets was there
training,” Peterson recalled. “Yeah, those guys make you better.
You’re able to see things that they do. You’ll be like, ‘Hmm. Maybe I can do
that a little better.’ You’re able to learn things from them as well, but when
you’ve got a lot of alpha males out there you’re definitely competing to be the
best and pushing each other.”

Lynch’s team won the first round last season, taking a 30-20
win against the Vikings in Seattle. Peterson ran for 182 yards on 17 carries
with two touchdowns. Lynch, in his only career game against Minnesota, had 26
carries for 124 yards and a touchdown.

Peterson said there’s a little extra motivation hidden deep
inside when he’s facing the league’s top backs, like Lynch.

“Ah, I’m sure it’s there, to some extent,”
Peterson said. “It’s not like we’re at the point where you’re more focused
on that than wanting to win, but of course I’m sure he sits over there and is
like, ‘Hey, Adrian breaks one.  I want to break one. I want to perform
better for my team to help my team win.’ So in inside, all the way in the back,
it kind of sits there. But it’s not at the forefront.”

This season, Lynch is second in the NFL in rushing with 871
yards and Peterson ranks fourth with 786 yards. After a few weeks of limited
opportunities, Peterson has topped 20 carries for two straight weeks and
Minnesota wants to get Peterson going against the Seahawks’ 15th-ranked run
defense.

“We hope they play that way against us,” offensive
coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We can’t count on it, though, but they
gave up 205 yards was it to St. Louis or Tampa and then 200 two out of the last
three games, so people have gotten some yards on them. We’ll take the yards,
but we want those to end up in points, too.

“So we fully intend to run it on them and see if we can
have some success.”

And see which back is the true “beast.”

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