ST. LOUIS Rams coach Jeff Fisher has painful memories from the last time he attempted a game plan to slow Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
I feel the same way now as I did then, Fisher said. I dont forget that week at all. Its not easy.
The NFLs leading rusher comes to town Sunday when the 6-6-1 Rams hope to slow down the explosive Peterson and keep their playoff hopes alive. The Rams must win their final three games and get some help if they want to somehow sneak into the playoffs.
And theyve got no chance if they cant find a way to limit the damage of the Vikings All-Pro running back. Peterson has rushed for 1,600 yards in 13 games more than 23 teams and 334 yards ahead of the next highest individual, Seattles Marshawn Lynch.
Hes rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games, a Vikings record, and has averaged 157.3 per game during that span. He had 104 yards in the first quarter alone Sunday against the Chicago Bears, 51 coming on an impressive run on the first play of the game.
What hes done, specifically just the last five weeks is just off the charts, Fisher said. Hes got a touchdown run in each of the last five weeks of 51 yards or more against good defenses, 200 yards rushing against Seattle or something like that. You dont see anybody like him.
Its going to be more than a challenge for us. We had a big challenge with the Niners, had a big challenge last week. Only had 20 carries against San Francisco and 17 from the backs last week. This ones going to be a little different. Our key to defending Adrian Peterson is keeping Sam (Bradford) under center. I mean, thats the only chance youve got. Youve got to keep him on the bench.
Peterson is on pace for 1,969 rushing yards, which would be good for seventh best single season total in NFL history. But that doesnt appear good enough for him.
The former Oklahoma Sooner hopes to not only become the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He wants to break Hall of Famer Eric Dickersons NFL record of 2,105 yards set back in 1984.
Peterson would need to average 168.7 yards in each of the Vikings final three games of the season to reach 2,106 yards for the season. Hes rushed for at least 171 yards in three of the last five games and at least 150 yards in five of the last seven games.
It would mean a lot, Peterson said of breaking Dickersons record. I can tell you that because thats a landmark. Its been there for a long time and as a running back, you definitely want to break all the records. Thats how I look at it. It would mean a lot to me, but first things first, Id rather get in the playoffs first than break any records. It feels good to be in a position to even go after it.
With Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder struggling and wide receiver Percy Harvin out with an ankle injury, the Minnesota offensive attack has become one dimensional. And that makes Petersons recent stretch that much more impressive. Teams know hes getting the ball yet they still cant stop him.
Peterson had a season-high 31 carries Sunday against the Bears, and he figures to get a heavy load again Sunday. He has 18 runs of at least 20 yards, the most in the NFL.
And making his season even more impressive is the fact that he returned less than nine months after tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee on Christmas eve in Washington last season.
Ordinarily with that injury its going to take a while, and even if you come back that next season, youre probably not going to be the player that you were the year before the injury, said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. But Adrian has been amazing from the time he started the game against Jacksonville and throughout the season. Hes just gotten better and better.
I dont think theres anybody who thought, going into the season, that wed be talking about Adrian with 1,600 yards, leading the league in rushing, MVP candidate, Comeback Player of the Year candidate. Its just mind-boggling in a lot of ways. A lot of credit to Adrian -- his hard work, his determination. What our training staff did, (Head Athletic Trainer) Eric Sugarman and his guys. Just an amazing story.
But the Rams defense has been no slouch of late, particularly against the run. The Rams have the sixth best rush defense in the NFC and 13th best in the NFL, allowing an average of 110.3 rushing yards per game.
Theyve held opposing teams below 100 yards rushing six times, including just 61 yards rushing Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, who entered the game with one of the best ground attacks in the NFL.
The Miami Dolphins and talented running back Reggie Bush had just 36 rushing yards against the Rams earlier this season while Arizona had just 74 rushing yards in a Rams win three weeks ago.
Even for a good rush defense such as the Rams, containing Peterson figures to be a tough task. They wont completely shut him down. They just hope to limit him.
This is a different animal completely, Fisher said. Hes a violent runner and hes hard to bring down. Rarely do DBs get him down one-on-one and when they do, he pats them on the back of the helmet and says congratulations. Hes fun to watch as long as youre not preparing for him.
Its a huge challenge. Hes a different type of back. He was possessed against the Bears. Very, very explosive. Its not an easy task to get him down one-on-one or any place on the field. Well find out. I would like to say that I think our defense, against the run, is good enough to win with. But, with Adrian Peterson and that offense, they do that to everybody week-in and week-out. Were going to have to play well.