EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson has had plenty of big, memorable runs during his seven-year career with the Minnesota Vikings.
Peterson went 78 yards for a touchdown on his first carry this season. He has two career runs of at least 80 yards. His first career carry went for 13 yards. He set the single-game rushing record of 296 yards in his rookie season. He’s run over players and run away from them. He’s juked opponents to the ground with his vicious cuts.
One run, against the Cleveland Browns in the season-opener in 2009, demonstrated all of those abilities and had Peterson calling it one of his “top three” runs on his personal career list.
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The only time Peterson has faced this week’s opponent, Cleveland, was in 2009 when he ran for 180 yards. He finished his day with a 64-yard touchdown run where he darted through a hole on the left side of the line, made a move and had safety Brodney Pool fall, ran through an arm tackle by Brandon McDonald and then simply shoved cornerback Eric Wright out of the way.
The move to push Wright out of the way was so powerful, Peterson was stopped in his tracks. He then turned on the speed and ran away from the rest of the Browns’ defense. Peterson said it was one of the runs that really sticks out in his mind.
“I always remember Sidney (Rice) just pushing that guy when I shoved that guy out of bounds and I was getting ready to get going, the guy was coming from behind me and Sidney ended up blocking him and pushing him out,” Peterson said. “That’s a play I think about a lot.”
So what was the hardest part?
“Probably coming to a stop and accelerating,” Peterson said.
Peterson is hoping to accelerate against a strong Cleveland defense this weekend. The Browns have allowed a league-low 2.0 yards per carry through two games and are tied for the fourth-ranked run defense overall, giving up 59.5 yards per game.
“Very stout; good, big people that play hard,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “Their front-seven is good and their safeties are good tacklers. It’s a very sound Ray Horton defense.”
This isn’t the defense Peterson faced in 2009. Horton is Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator. Phil Taylor, a 335-pound nose tackle, is the anchor with 330-pound Ahtyba Rubin and 310-pound Desmond Bryant as defensive ends. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is a sure tackler inside.
Jackson and Rubin are the only defenders left from the 2009 Browns. Jackson is the only player who registered a tackle in the 2009 game that is still with the team.
“Me and the offensive line, we definitely take this is as a challenge for us,” Peterson said. “Those guys are pretty good up front, pretty stout. The first line has some fast guys. We pride ourselves on being able to establish the run game so it will be a good challenge for us. I’m excited for it.”
Peterson is third in the league in rushing through two weeks and on a better pace through two games than he was last season when he was coming off knee surgery. The Vikings own the league’s 10th ranked running game with Peterson running for 193 yards and a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. Through two games last year, Peterson had 144 yards rushing.
Of course, expectations are sky high for Peterson after his big finish last season, an MVP award and his declaration of going for 2,500 yards.
Peterson had 26 carries for 100 yards last week and came away disappointed.
“Even though I didn’t realize it when I was out there, when I was out there playing, I could see on film that I was trying to do too much instead of taking what the defense gave me,” Peterson said. “So it’s something that I was able to look at and really take something from.”
Peterson, who called 100 yards “easy” last week, said he didn’t even feel like he had 100 yards on Sunday. The slippery field conditions might have played a part, but Peterson also felt like he could have done more last week.
“Of course like on a couple plays I slipped, and that was more so because of the field conditions,” Peterson said. “But I was more so thinking and talking about just my mindset and my approach, really trying to strike those guys instead of running away from color as much as I did. I will be changing that this week.”
He didn’t have a problem running into, or away from, the Browns in his last meeting.