Beast vs. Beast Mode as Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch square off
Star running backs will be the focus with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.
By BRIAN HALLFS North
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."