Typically before any NFL game, there is the bravado and tough talking that goes on about a team looking to impose its will. But with the chatter coming from the Baltimore Ravens concerning Adrian Peterson, it sounds like the Ravens want to cut a trade for A.D.
Several players and coaches were asked about having the NFL’s top running back make what could well be his list trip to Baltimore (the Vikings won’t return for eight years) and many of them were high in their level of respect and glowing in their praise.
In his only career meeting, Peterson ran 22 times for 143 yards and the Baltimore defense, headed up by veteran Terrell Suggs, appear to be prepared for a potential repeat performance.
“What’s his nickname, ‘All Day?’” Suggs asked Baltimore reporters. “The man runs hard all day. It’s going to be interesting. It’s definitely a challenge for us, and we’re really looking forward to it. We’ll have to see what’s up on Sunday.”
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees believes Peterson is the most complete running back in the league and will be a tall order for a Ravens defense that has been good, but not overpowering against the run.
“He has got everything,” Pees said. “He has got all the tools. Usually, you talk about guys being jump-cutters or this guy is a spinner, this guy can lower his pads and run downhill and run over you. Yeah, that is him. It’s like I told the defense when I put in the game plan, ‘Everybody is at the point of attack when he has the ball. Just because you’re on the back side doesn’t mean that he isn’t coming back there.’ So, all 11 guys have to have their eyes on him when he has the ball, and we have to do a great job of surrounding him. The biggest thing is tackling him. He’ll break tackles. That’s why he has so many runs. They are a good offensive team. They have good players besides him, but he is the guy who really makes that run game go.”
Earlier this week Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh was peppered with questions about whether Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder will be the starter and how the defense would prepare for their differences – not knowing at the time that Cassel would be named starter. Harbaugh said it didn’t really matter which one of them started. His defense is gearing up for Peterson.
“Adrian Peterson (is a) great back, a great challenge,” Harbaugh said. “They do a great job with the run game. It is well-coached. The offensive line blocks it well. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, so we’ll have our hands full. But it just can’t be that. You can’t sleep on the rest of their talent. They’ve got a number of very good tight ends that can make plays. They’ve got a number of very talented receivers that can make plays. They are a fully complemented offense, talent-wise.”
Linebacker Jameel McClain summed up the feeling of several respectful Ravens defenders when he responded to a question as to whether Peterson is the best running back he’s ever faced, saying “definitely, definitely.” When one “definitely” just isn’t enough, that’s respect.
“He’s a powerful runner, he’s very explosive, and he has the balance where you can’t just come in and hit him – you have to wrap him up,” McClain said. “And it’s got to be about five to six guys running to the ball, too, to try to get him down. He’s good at what he does and we’ve got to focus on the important thing, and the important thing is getting him down, not letting him get yards after the first hit.”
As the Vikings look to be the spoiler of another team’s playoff dream, there may be more players keeping an eye on the field when they’re on the sidelines than there usually is. One of them will definitely be wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is a Peterson fan.
“Talking to him off the field, he’s an awesome person as well,” Smith said. “Anytime you get the opportunity to watch him play in person, you’re excited about it, but we want our defense to shut him down. He’s one of the best in the game for a reason, and our defense is going to have a tough task in trying to shut him down. We’re confident in them, and we’re definitely comfortable with them having our backs as well. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be hard to completely eliminate him – you know that – but it’s going to be on them to control him and for us to put up points.”
Call it the anti-chalkboard material coming out of Baltimore. Peterson is the enemy, but he’s an enemy who is garnering a lot of respect from the opposition.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.