Speed, power, elusiveness, and tenacity.
Those are just some of the qualities that make Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson one of the NFL’s most prolific rushers. They have allowed him to rush for 9,042 yards, 78 touchdowns, and average 99.4 yards per game since the 2007 season, all of which lead the NFL during that time.
“(It is) his size and his speed and he has great vision,” veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said of Peterson. “There haven’t been too many running backs run for 2,000 yards, and he’s been one of them. One thing that jumps out at you is he had over 1,000 yards after contact, so he’s able to not only run past you, but allude tackles and take it the distance. He’s the complete package, in my opinion.”
Peterson came into the 2013 season after his most prolific year. Despite tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the end of the 2011 regular season, Peterson rehabbed and recovered quickly enough to rush for 2,097 yards, eight shy of Eric Dickerson’s NFL record, and 12 touchdowns last year, marking the sixth straight season in which he rushed for double-digit scores.
“As a professional, he’s got to be itching to get back to where he was at last year. For us, as professionals, it’s our job to prevent that from happening. It’s going to be a good challenge. It’s going to be a good game. Hopefully, we can get the win.”
In only one game against the Browns, the 2009 regular-season opener, Peterson rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, the third of which was a 64-yard score in the fourth quarter that sealed Minnesota’s victory.
“I definitely remember that,” Jackson said. “He’s one of those special players. We were able to contain him, somewhat, in the first half, and I believe the second half is when he exploded. I remember it. There aren’t too many guys that were here when it happened. We pride ourselves on being a pretty solid defense, especially stopping the run. We’ve got a great test ahead of us, and I think we’re up for it.”
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said that although Peterson has legs that are constantly in motion and draws strength from his core muscles, what makes him so effective and special cannot be quantified or tested.
“He’s got it in his genes,” Horton said. “I think he’s got a rare genetic makeup and then, a will that you can’t measure. He’s got unbelievable feet, cutback strength. Coach (Daron) Roberts did a study on him of his yards last year, 1,097 of it was after first contact. You can’t get the guy down, so we’ve been talking about getting as many bodies to 28 as we can.”
When the Browns’ defense lines up against Peterson and the Vikings, Horton said, “It will be a good test of wills.” While the Vikings rely on Peterson, the Browns’ rush defense has allowed the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens to average just 59.5 rushing yards per game.
“We want to earn that respect around the league, and it starts with winning one,” Jackson said. “Defensively, stopping the run, why not go against the best to see how good you are and how good you can be? We definitely have a challenge ahead of us. We know they’re going to run the ball.“It’s hard enough for backs to get 1,000 yards, let alone, after contact. We’ll fully aware of it. We have to have a population on the ball. Everybody has to be involved in tackling him. If you give him a crease, he can take it from anywhere on that field.”