The Minnesota Vikings are looking to avoid their first four-game losing streak to the Green Bay Packers in 19 years. Record-breaking rookie running back Adrian Peterson may give them a good chance to do so.
One week after setting an NFL single-game rushing mark, Peterson leads the Vikings (3-5) into Lambeau Field for a matchup with Brett Favre and the first-place Packers (7-1).
While the Vikings may have a tough time making the playoffs, it could be difficult to count them out because of their dynamic first-year back. Peterson, the seventh overall draft pick out of Oklahoma, ran for 296 yards to power the Vikings to a 35-17 win over San Diego last week.
Peterson, who scored three touchdowns, rushed for one more yard than Jamal Lewis did for Baltimore on Sept. 14, 2003. Peterson has league highs of 1,036 rushing yards and eight scores on the season, and is on pace to shatter Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 rushing yards set in 1983. Dickerson’s single-season mark of 2,105 yards in 1984 is also within reach.
“He’s a separate entity, but to say that Adrian gives you that swagger,” Minnesota coach Brad Childress said. “It gives you a swagger when you can beat people up and win, no matter how you are doing it.”
Minnesota has yet to win back-to-back games this season and is 1-3 on the road. The victory, however, was a 34-31 win at Chicago on Oct. 14, when Peterson ran for 224 yards and three TDs on 20 carries.
Peterson had 112 yards on just 12 carries in a 23-16 loss to Green Bay on Sept. 30, and this time, he won’t have to deal with Packers safety Nick Collins, who’s known for shutting down opponents’ top runners.
Collins is out for several games after spraining his left knee in last week’s 33-22 win at Kansas City. He’s part of a Green Bay defense that ranks seventh in the league in rushing yards allowed (750) and is tied for third with only three TDs allowed on the ground.
Aaron Rouse, a third-round pick out of Virginia Tech, is expected to take Collins’ spot in the lineup. The rookie was hampered by a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first three contests, and he’s been used on a limited basis in five games, making three tackles - all against Kansas City.
“It’s all part of it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of his concern regarding the communication between Rouse and Atari Bigby, two inexperienced safeties. “As long as they’re communicating and taking the gray area out of their decision-making, based on their checks and everything, I think he’ll be fine. That’s the hard part.”
Rouse would join Bigby in a secondary that includes veteran cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, who secured the victory over the Chiefs with a 46-yard interception return with 59 seconds to play. Bigby has eight career starts, all this season, and one of the team’s eight INTs.
The Packers stayed one game ahead of Detroit in the NFC North by scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter to overcome the Chiefs and extend their winning streak to three. Favre went 24-for-34 for 360 yards with two TDs and two interceptions, and his 60-yard TD pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings with 3:05 left put Green Bay ahead to stay.
Favre and Jennings have developed chemistry of late, as Jennings has nine catches for 226 receiving yards and three touchdowns over the last two games. He has six TDs in six games this season after missing two contests with a hamstring injury.
“We’re excited about Greg Jennings, and I think you can see why, just in the last couple weeks,” McCarthy said. “When he’s healthy, he has the ability to move the chains with the underneath completions … But he also has the deep speed to go deep.”
While the Packers have the veteran leadership of Favre, the Vikings’ unsettled situation at quarterback means they’ll have to rely even more heavily on their running game this week. Starter Tarvaris Jackson suffered a concussion against the Chargers and was replaced by Brooks Bollinger, who has gone 14-for-20 for 189 yards and a touchdown in relief over the last two games.
Kelly Holcomb, the Vikings’ other backup and the starter in the Sept. 30 matchup, is still recovering from a whiplash-like injury suffered two weeks ago in a loss to Philadelphia.
Childress is not planning on naming his starter until pregame warmups. Jackson is listed as questionable and will start if he’s ready, otherwise Bollinger would likely get his first start since helping the New York Jets to a 30-26 win over Buffalo on Jan. 1, 2006.
Minnesota hasn’t lost four in a row to the Packers since being swept in season series in 1987 and ’88. Green Bay has won seven of the last 10 meetings, although that recent past isn’t as one-sided as it seems, as none of those 10 games were decided by more than seven points.
Favre completed 32 of 45 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns in the Sept. 30 victory, while Jennings had a touchdown catch among his three receptions for 43 yards.