How Do The Ravens Stop Adrian Peterson?


Workhorse running backs are a dying breed in the NFL.

In a pass-heavy era where the life span of running backs is shrinking, few teams consistently pound the football with one back game after game.

But Minnesota's Adrian Peterson is the exception to the rule.

He has been the most dominant player at his position for the last seven years, and now the Ravens have the daunting task of figuring out how to stop him.

"You get the chance to go up against the best," linebacker Jameel McClain said. "You can't just hit him, you have to wrap him up, and there's got to be about five or six guys running to the ball to try to get him down."

McClain said that Peterson is "definitely" the best running back he's ever faced during the course of McClain's six-year career, and the statistics support that. The numbers on Peterson are historic, even in today's quarterback-driven league. 

During his seven-year career, Peterson has averaged 99.6 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. Since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970, the only player to average more rushing yards per game is Hall of Famer Barry Sanders (99.8).

Peterson has 10,057 career rushing yards and 86 rushing touchdowns. No other player has more than 61 rushing touchdowns or 7,700 yards during that time.

"He can create his own space and he can be his own blocker," defensive lineman Chris Canty said. "It's very impressive when you see that. He can run through you, he can run around you. His agility, quickness and vision are all assets, and it makes him a really tough guy to defend."

Stopping Peterson is the challenge every team faces when matching up against the Vikings, but it's a task few have figured out how to do. Just four times in the last 22 games Peterson hasn't scored a touchdown or gone over 100 rushing yards.

Week after week, the Vikings see the same approach. Teams stack the box to clog the running lanes and try to force the Vikings to beat them through the air.

"We get a lot of people at the line of scrimmage, and it doesn't vary a whole lot from week to week," Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. "I don't know about a lot of creativity. It's eight, nine man fronts week in and week out."

The Vikings offense operates off the running game. Peterson has had at least 20 carries in each of the five last games, and last week he carried 35 times for 211 yards.

"What's his nickname, like 'All Day?'" outside linebacker Terrell Suggs asked. "The man runs hard like all day. It's going to be interesting."

Minnesota then tries to build other areas of their offense based off their ground success. They use the run to take some of the pressure off their quarterbacks and set up the play-action pass.

"It's a team, and he is definitely the building block for them," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They want to run the ball. We've got to stop the run, but it's not just that. It's the play-action passes, and it's the big plays out of the rest of the guys."

Peterson is the face of the Vikings and the team's most explosive weapon, and Frazier acknowledged that the national view of his team is that it's a one-man show.

"When you are sitting where we are record wise, I'm sure that would be the perception," Frazier said. "But we've got some other good players and we hope that they'll have a good game Sunday against the Ravens."

The Ravens stress they are not looking past the other players of Minnesota's offense for this week's game, but they also recognize that stopping the dynamic running back is the top priority.

"We have to stop the run," Canty said. "We don't want to fight the war on two fronts, so it's important to play fundamental, sound run defense." 

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