Another Chicago Bears game coming up vs the Minnesota Vikings, another focus on preventing Adrian Peterson from going off. And even when you do focus on that, even when you do have eight defenders in the box and bring a variety of run blitzes, Peterson still usually finds a way to have a big game.
The Detroit Lions had all offseason to prepare for their week one matchup against Peterson and the Vikings, and what did the 2012 NFL MVP do on his first carry (and the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, even)? He ran for a 78-yard touchdown:
After that, though, the Lions actually did a fantastic job containing Peterson. The 6'1", 217-pound back only ran for 15 yards and one touchdown over his 17 remaining carries. You don't have to be a math genius to realize that calculates out to less than one yard per carry.
How did the Lions keep Peterson to under one yard per carry over those final 17 carries, after allowing him to run right by them for a 78-yard touchdown on the first play? Former Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach Brian Billick served as the color commentator for this Lions-Vikings game, and broke down how the Lions were able to slow Peterson down after the touchdown run:
As Billick displayed in the video, it was an effort from the entire Lions defense to contain Peterson; from the defensive line to the secondary.
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker James Anderson, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker echoed those thoughts on what it takes to take down Peterson.
"Our defense will have its hands full because he's a guy who makes you play team football," Tillman said. "You can't have one guy tackle him, you have to population tackle."Anderson:
"Man, you've got to get guys to the ball," Anderson said. "You've got to get helmets to the ball. You can't try to take that guy one-on-one. If he makes the first guy miss, he'll break tackles. Leverage and tackling. You've got to make sure tackles."Tucker:
"Everyone is at the point of attack every time he gets the ball -- the front side, the back side, the D-line, the linebackers, the secondary." Tucker said. "Every time he gets the ball he can go the distance."
The Lions' defense had eight men in the box for 15 of Peterson's 16 carries. But as we said earlier, just because you have eight men in the box does not at all mean you're necessarily going to prevent Peterson from having a big game. The Bears have to do a much, much better job of tackling than they did against the Bengals.
Here's what Anderson had to say about the Bears' tackling:
"You've got to lean back into your fundamentals and technique," Anderson said. "You get tired, you start getting high [pad level]. The more we get used to playing games, to lowering our pads a little bit, we'll be fine.And even though the Bears have arguably the best group of tackling defensive backs in the league (with particularly terrific tacklers at cornerback in Tillman and Tim Jennings), you don't want to leave it up to them to have to bring down a charging Peterson in the open field.
The Bears' front seven -- Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Corey Wootton, Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, and Anderson-- are the key to this game. They need to fill their gaps and make tackles. And if they can't make tackles by themselves, they at least need to slow Peterson down to put the other defenders in position for the 'population' tackles Tillman described.
Also important in slowing down Peterson, will be for the Bears' front four to put pressure on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. There was little to no pass rush from the Bears against the Bengals, as they had no quarterback hits through three quarters and finished the game with only one sack, courtesy of second-year defensive end Shea McClellin. If the Bears' can get consistent pressure on Ponder from the defensive line in this game, it allows the team to feel more comfortable in bringing up a safety in the box to help slow down Peterson. Otherwise, Ponder will have a receiver or two open (such as tight end Kyle Rudolph down the seam), and even with Ponder's throwing struggles, an NFL quarterback is usually going to take advantage of such situations.
Peterson is a special talent and he's going to make plays; he's almost always going to break a big run or two. In 2012, he only had one game where he didn't have a run of least 18 yards, and he broke a run of 25 yards or more in 10 games.
But if the Bears can limit the damage and the front seven can shut down many of Peterson's carries at or near the line of scrimmage as the Lions did, they're going to put themselves in a terrific position to have a 2-0 record after Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
Source for quotes: ESPN Chicago
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