GREEN BAY—Every opponent focuses on stopping Adrian Peterson. The Texans are one of the few teams that have succeeded, and they lost the game.
That’s one of the underlying concerns the Packers have for Sunday’s showdown with the Minnesota Vikings: Don’t focus enough on stopping Peterson, and he’ll mow you down; focus too much on Peterson, and somebody else will you beat you.
“When you combine the run game and (Christian Ponder’s) ability to throw on the move, they tie together. He’ll pull it down and run. He was very efficient running against Houston,” Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday, as the Packers put the finishing touches to a game plan to beat the Vikings, sweep the NFC North and clinch the No. 2 playoff spot in the NFC and the first-round bye that goes with it.
It’s a game plan that, no doubt, begins with a strategy for stopping the most dominant running back in recent history. Should Peterson rush for 208 yards on Sunday, he’ll cap the most dominant single-season rushing effort in NFL history.
So why do the Packers sound equally concerned about Ponder, whose 78.8 passer rating puts him near the bottom of the league’s passer rankings?
“He has had some consistent success against us,” Inside Linebackers Coach Winston Moss said of Peterson, who rushed for 210 yards in the last meeting between the two teams and rushed for 175 yards against the Packers in the Metrodome last season.
“When was the last time we lost to the Minnesota Vikings?” Moss asked.
The last time the Packers lost to the Vikings was in 2009. The Packers lost to the Vikings twice that season. Peterson reached the 100-yard mark neither time.
“You have to focus more on the process and the game,” Moss said. “If (we) win (our) one-on-ones … everything takes care of itself.”
In a 23-14 win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2, Peterson had reached 182 yards rushing on just the first play of the second half, with the Vikings leading, 14-10. He would gain just 28 yards in the remainder of the game, as two interceptions by Morgan Burnett turned the game decidedly in the Packers’ favor.
That second-half performance was a turning point in the season for the Packers defense, which was coming off a weak performance against the Giants and two quarters and one play of soft defense against Peterson. Since the Burnett interception that killed the Vikings’ opening drive of the second half, the Packers defense has been overpowering. It’s allowed just 40 points in three games and is playing its best football since 2010.
“Last year, we limped (into the playoffs) on defense,” Capers said.
This year, the Packers defense is on the rise, all the way to No. 10 in the league. Can Capers’ unit stay hot this Sunday and carry that into the postseason? In their attempt to do just that, the Packers will use this game plan: “Try to stop the run, make the game one-dimensional, and then try to put pressure on the quarterback,” Capers said.
Even against a team that possesses the best running back in the game, winning still comes down to stopping the opposing quarterback.
“It’s a quarterback-driven league,” Capers said.
“Adrian has had so many big games that it’s kind of been overshadowed that we’ve had so many players contribute to our success,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “Adrian should get the attention, but we have some other guys that are contributing. They understand it’s a team game and they’ve bought into that philosophy.”
Stopping Ponder, not Peterson, is what won the last meeting between the two teams for the Packers. Additional coverage - Dec. 28