It’s takes an all-out defensive effort to contain the explosive potential of Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris said the staff has been emphasizing that to the team’s defensive backs this week.
If Peterson does manage to break into the second level of the Bucs defense and beyond, it will primarily be the job of safeties Sean Jones, Cody Grimm and Corey Lynch and cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and E.J. Biggers, to make sure those runs don’t turn into game-changers.
“Every team has a dynamic player, a dynamic back – maybe not as dynamic as others – but this is certainly one of those weeks that you definitely talk to the DBs about tackling,” Morris said. “You talk to the DBs about getting to the football. We’ve got to play with all of them this week.”
Peterson enters this Week 2 matchup with the Buccaneers after posting 98 yards on 16 carries for a 6.1-yard average during the Vikings’ 24-17 road loss to San Diego. As a team, Minnesota’s lopsided offensive balance last Sunday produced 159 total yards on the ground and only 28 yards through the air when including yards lost after two Chargers sacks.
While Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said during a Wednesday press conference in Minnesota that the team must establish a better offensive balance, the scheme undoubtedly begins with No. 28.
“Everything that we do is based on getting him going because it opens up so many things for our offense,” said Frazier according to the team’s conference transcription on Vikings.com. “But there has to be balance and we understand that and because of the attention that is paid to Adrian, it opens up other opportunities for other players on our offense and we have to take advantage of that. I don’t think that’s going to change. People have to pay attention to Adrian Peterson and one of the ways they do that is having an extra guy in the box in the run game and gives us other opportunities and we have to take advantage.”
Morris didn’t go into detail about how the Bucs are scheming for Peterson, but rather focused his comments on players getting to the ball to contain him. An All-Pro caliber back like Peterson is going to make his plays, Morris said, and especially take full advantage of any lapses in effort by the defense.
“With this game, you’re talking about a great back like Adrian Peterson, you’re talking about tackling as a unit, and you’re talking about gang tackling. There’s no doubt about it. If I think I’m going to get out of this game without a missed tackle I’m sadly mistaken.”
“We’ve got to go out there and gang tackle, we’ve got to get a bunch of hats to the ball, we’ve got to rally to the football every snap,” Morris continued. “The one you don’t is the one he hurts you. We don’t want that to happen and we don’t want to allow that.”
Aside from a 20-yard end-around by wide receiver Nate Burleson of Detroit last Sunday, Tampa Bay largely kept Lions ball carriers in front of them. Of running backs Jahvid Best and Jerome Harrison’s 29 combined attempts, both had a long rush of nine yards. The Bucs surrendered 126 yards rushing on 35 carries, overall, for a 3.6-yard average. Best [5-foot-10, 199-pounds] and Harrison [5-foot-9, 205-pounds] presented a much different – and less physical – challenge to the Bucs than what the defense will be tasked with against the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Peterson.
As daunting as it is for any team facing the fifth-year pro out of Oklahoma, the Bucs have had success against Peterson in the past. The most recent meeting between Tampa Bay and Minnesota came on Nov. 16, 2008 in Tampa. The Bucs won that game 19-13 and limited Peterson to 85 yards on 19 carries. Peterson entered that game as the league’s leading rusher at the time.