Redskins gear up for RB Peterson
ASHBURN, Va. — During running back Adrian Peterson’s seven NFL seasons, the Minnesota Vikings have largely been the “AP Show.” However, the Washington Redskins have done a solid job against the reigning league Most Valuable Player.
During four previous matchups leading into Thursday night’s game at the Metrodome, Peterson, who averages 103.1 yards per game and 5.0 per carry against the rest of the NFL, has averaged just 45 yards per game and 4.0 per carry against Washington.
“You’re talking about a phenomenal football player,” said 16th-year inside linebacker London Fletcher, the captain of all the Washington defenses that have slowed Peterson, with whom he has played in the Pro Bowl. “He’s full-speed in Pro Bowl walk-through practices. When you face the Minnesota Vikings, the No. 1 task is stopping him, not allowing him to get going. We have corners that will come up and tackle. That’s the thing that helps us. It’s 11 guys knowing what they need to do. When you look at the power, the speed and being able to cut on a dime, I can’t think of a back with all those different attributes.”
The teams have split the four meetings, with the Redskins winning on their way to the playoffs in 2007 and 2012 while the Vikings prevailed in 2010 and 2011. The latter is the game in which Peterson suffered major knee ligament damage on a tackle by then-Washington safety DeJon Gomes.
“You have to be detailed from the first play to the last play,” said defensive end Kedric Golston. “He’s extremely explosive and hard to bring down. (You have to) gang-tackle him to get on the ground.”
Other than ranking fifth in yards per carry and eighth in yards per carry defense, the 1-7 Vikings rank in the bottom 10 of the league in passing, scoring, pass defense and scoring defense. But then there’s Peterson.
“He’s the best back in the league,” declared Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen. “He knows when somebody’s out of position. If I’m too heavy on a block, he’ll run right through my gap. Everybody’s really got to be gap-sound (against him) and that’s why we’ve been successful in the past.”
Bowen said that while the defense is still ranked as the NFL’s third-worst, its goal-line stand in the final seconds of regulation in last week’s overtime victory over San Diego can make a big difference.
“We’re playing a lot better than we were in the beginning of the season,” Bowen said, referring to the first three games of the season when the Redskins were surrendering yards at a NFL record pace. “Guys are starting to play with a lot more confidence. That goal-line stand is gonna be a confidence booster for us; that we know even when our backs we can still get it done. Guys are excited and ready to play on Thursday.”
Left tackle Trent Williams, who blocked for Peterson as a freshman at Oklahoma in 2006, will never forget that experience.
“He’s more like a big brother (to me) with us being from half an hour apart in Texas, when I came in, he kind of took me under his wing and held me to a high standard,” said Williams, who works out with Peterson during the offseason. “He wouldn’t let me play a freshman type of game. Every mistake I made, he was in my ear. It was really nerve-wracking (because) if you don’t get out of the way, he will out you in his tracks. You don’t want to be the one who he had to make your guy miss in the backfield.”
Or the one who misses a tackle that enables Peterson to break one of his trademark long runs.