Packers’ defense prepares for Peterson
GREEN BAY, Wis. — If Adrian Peterson is able to become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader this Sunday, the Vikings’ star running back will have to thank the Green Bay Packers for playing such a significant role in his record-breaking season.
Peterson, who ran for 210 yards against the Packers on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field, will pass Eric Dickerson’s 28-year-old record of 2,105 rushing yards if he duplicates that performance in the regular-season finale between the two teams this weekend.
But after watching Peterson dominate them less than four weeks ago, Green Bay’s defense doesn’t want to allow it to happen again.
“We’ve got a lot of pride,” outside linebacker Dezman Moses said. “We’re men, too. We don’t want anybody to come in and make a record and all that stuff. We understand what’s at stake. We definitely want to be the team to stop him. That’s a big task, but it’s something we’re up for.”
The Packers’ run defense has been relatively good this season, currently ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. But since Week 7, it hasn’t mattered which defense Peterson faced, as he is continuing to rack up huge totals on the ground.
“We’re aware of it,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “We’re just not talking about (Peterson’s record) much. It’s not like we don’t want to stop him, but we want to win the game first and foremost. If he gets his record and they lose, then we win. We’re worried about winning the game, not putting a big emphasis on his record.
“It’s not about him. We feel like it’s about what we do. That’s how we approach it.”
Even though Peterson had the second-most yards of his season in the first game against Green Bay, it still resulted in a Vikings loss. But if Peterson can lead Minnesota to victory in this rematch, the Vikings will clinch a playoff berth and also prevent the Packers from controlling their own destiny for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best back I’ve ever seen in my life,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “He definitely deserves to get the record, but it’s an unfortunate situation (that he’s going against us).”
Passing Dickerson will take an extraordinary effort from Peterson, but he’s only 102 yards away from 2,000. If Peterson reaches that mark, he’ll be only the seventh running back in NFL history to do so, joining Dickerson, Jamal Lewis (2003), Barry Sanders (1997), Terrell Davis (1998), Chris Johnson (2009) and O.J. Simpson (1973).
While it’s certainly in the Packers’ best interest to contain Peterson and prevent him from reaching any of the two attainable rushing records, reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers has enjoyed watching the records be closed in on.
“Most of us are fans first,” Rodgers said. “When I was growing up, I believe it was around 1998 when Barry Sanders went over 2,000 yards. It’s fun to watch. Only a few guys have done that. At that point, I believe it had just been Simpson and Dickerson. Barry was the third guy. That’s quite a record. To average 125 yards a game is tough to do, with the ups and downs of the season.
“Adrian has had an incredible year. It’s fun to watch; it is, from afar. You don’t want him to break the record this week, because if he does, it probably means they’re playing the way they want to and they’re ahead in the game. He rushed for 200 last time and we beat them.
“He’s tough to stop. You just try to slow him down a little bit, and if the offense can get going and make them have to throw a little bit more, that would slow him down a little bit.”
Rodgers even went as far as to promote Peterson for the league’s most prestigious awards.
“He’s a big-time player (and) he’s got to be mentioned in the Comeback Player of the Year and MVP categories this year,” Rodgers said. “It’s fun to see a guy like that, who I think carries himself the right way, playing at a high level.”
Peterson and Rodgers, along with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, are widely considered the top four choices for the MVP award this season.
“He’d get my vote,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said of Peterson.
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter