Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson could very well rush for 200 yards on Saturday night at Green Bay. The question, though, is does it really matter?
While Peterson has amazed and thrilled the NFL with his 2,097-yard season and been at his best in two games against the Packers (409 combined rushing yards and three total touchdowns), that didn't equate to a season sweep of the Vikings' division rival. Fact is, Peterson ran for 210 yards at Green Bay in Week 13 and the Vikings lost.
Historically, teams have fared well when a running back has rushed for at least 200 yards. Teams went 6-2 in those circumstances this season, 71-2 (97.3 winning percentage) from 1990-2011 and won 92.1 percent of the time (118 out of 126) through '11 dating back to the first-ever 200-yard game in 1933.
Yet given the explosive nature of passing games in general and specifically with Green Bay being armed with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, overcoming such a huge rushing effort is deemed as less daunting.
"The whole idea of the ball-control, methodical offense is really gone, especially with what you see out of the college game," said former NFL running back and current Yahoo! Sports analyst Eddie George, who rushed for 216 yards in a game in 1997 for Tennessee. "You have a lot of plays being run at a high tempo so that people can score faster and that's taken away from how the running game was used in the past."
Even with Peterson nearly getting 200 yards again vs. the Packers in Sunday's victory that clinched Minnesota a playoff berth and assured a rematch, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was focused on playing keep-away late.
"We made sure we ran it down to the two-minute warning to make sure they didn't get the ball with another chance to stop the clock," Frazier said Sunday, referring to a critical third-down play the Vikings ran Sunday.
For all of Peterson's dominance, teams with great quarterbacks feel little concern about giving up yards.
"You have a much different philosophy on how to defend the run these days because everybody is willing to throw so much nowadays," Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "You have to be sound in your concepts, but you can't commit personnel like you used to just to stop the run because then you look up and they've hit a 40-yard pass over the top. It's not just one or two teams that can throw it like that, it's the entire league, basically."
In fact, two of Minnesota's most important plays in the victory over Green Bay came in the second half when quarterback Christian Ponder hit a 65-yard deep throw over the top of the defense and later hit a 25-yard throw on the aforementioned third-and-11 situation.
For all of Peterson's greatness in that game – including a 26-yard run immediately preceding Blair Walsh's game-winning kick – it ultimately came down to Ponder being able to keep up with Rodgers. At least just enough to take advantage of what Peterson did.
That said, Green Bay has put a bulls-eye on Peterson.
"We aren't giving up 200 again," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews told USA Today on Wednesday.
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