Giant show respect for Vikings' Adrian Peterson
The Giants have faced Pro Bowl running backs in each of the last three games and managed to keep each of them under control. They limited Jamaal Charles to 65 yards in Kansas City, held LeSean McCoy (the NFL's leading rusher) to 46 two weeks ago, and last Thursday allowed just 67 to Matt Forte.
You might think that would lead to having a decent level of confidence going up against Adrian Peterson on Monday night. But Perry Fewell said those past successes, even though they came against three of the NFL's top seven rushers, mean nothing when it comes to facing the most dangerous offensive player in the league.
"I think he's a different guy," the Giants' defensive coordinator said, chuckling nervously. "He's really good."
Lately Peterson has been garnering more attention for his off-the-field life. His two-year-old son was allegedly killed by the boyfriend of the child's mother two weeks ago and Peterson only learned he was the boy's father two months ago. Peterson missed a practice this week to attend the two-year-old's funeral in South Dakota.
But on the field there's not much controversy, particularly when it comes to figuring out who is the best running back in the NFL.
Peterson, the NFL's reigning MVP, is coming off a season in which he ran for 2,097 yards after undergoing ACL reconstruction in the offseason. So far this year he's run for 483 yards, ahead of last year's pace when he had 420 through the first five games.
The Giant with the most experience against Peterson is defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who played against the Vikings twice a year while he was a member of the Packers.
"His size, he's strong, fast, quick, the determination he runs with -- everything," Jenkins said when asked what makes Peterson so special. "I think since he's come into the league, he's had a chip on his shoulder, and being out there in Green Bay, I had a chance to play against him a lot, and you really see it every year, every game, every time he's out on the field. He's determined. He's trying to be the best player on the field, period."
He very well might be just that.
"I don't think there's any doubt that he is," Fewell said. "He's dynamic."
"There's no question that everyone would say that he's the best back in the league," Justin Tuck added.
All of which has the Giants eager to show that their improved run defense can withstand the best.
"It's going to be a good challenge for us; it's going to be a good challenge for me," tackle Linval Joseph said. "I'm excited to go against him. I get to see the great Adrian Peterson."
"It's a big challenge, but it's an opportunity to do something great," middle linebacker Jon Beason said. "That's how you define yourself. It's all about what you do against 'the man.' If he's the standard, then you want to see where you measure up."
Peterson may not have been this vulnerable to being contained since he was taken off the field with his torn up knee on Christmas Eve 2011. Besides his personal issues, he also missed another practice this week with a sore hamstring and is listed as probable on the injury report. He's also coming off a game against the Panthers in which he ran for just 62 yards, his fewest since Week 2 of last season.
But the Giants know that even if they can keep tabs on him, it takes only one play for him to turn mediocrity into another spectacular outing.
"He's a very patient runner," Fewell said. "You can contain him, contain him, contain him, and then -- bam! -- he's out . . . Teams have really gotten after him and have done a good job, and once you vacate a gap or once you miss a tackle, he makes a big play."
"It just seems like you can play him pretty good for three quarters or for 75 to 80 percent of the runs he has," Tuck said. "It's that one play where he takes it for 70 that makes your rushing stats look crappy. I'll never forget we had him at one point for 16 rushes for like 30 yards and then he hits a -yarder and everybody says, 'Adrian Peterson had another big day.' Yeah, he did, but it was just that one play."
Peterson has had a run of at least 20 yards in 16 of his last 17 games. In that span, he has run for six touchdowns of at least 60 yards. Consider that the Giants haven't had even one run of 20 yards this season.
The key to stopping that will be preventing Peterson from reaching the second level, which is where the corners and safeties make their tackles on running backs. Fewell said that is "vitally important."
"You just have to go and attack him," Antrel Rolle said. "You're going to win some, you're going to lose some."
And if Peterson gets past the second level?
"He's got such a gear that you normally don't catch him," Fewell said.
Unlike other running backs, though, Peterson is not just a speed guy. He is known -- and respected -- as much for his tenacity as his 40-yard time.
"I've seen guys hit him, tackle him, beat him up, punch him, and he just keeps coming," Fewell said. "He's got an iron will and he's just a strong runner and he's got a great determination to make those yards."
Perhaps Beason paid him the greatest compliment a linebacker can give a running back.
"I like to tell people that he should be playing on the defensive side of the ball with his determination, the way he plays every down like it's his last," Beason said. "I love to watch him play football."
He'll have a good view of it Monday night.