Coming off his best rushing day of the season, Peterson looks to help the Vikings maintain their momentum Sunday by getting their first win at Raymond James Stadium and handing the Buccaneers their first home loss of the year.
Minnesota (5-4) is trying for its third straight victory and fifth in six games after winning a key division matchup last Sunday. The Vikings moved into a tie with the Chicago Bears for the NFC North lead after beating the Green Bay Packers 28-27.
Peterson rushed for a season-high 192 yards, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 29-yard run with 2:22 remaining.
“I can’t compare him to anybody,” Vikings quarterback Gus Frerrote said. “I mean, the guy is just incredible.”
Peterson, whose rushing total has gone up in four straight games, is looking to run for at least 100 yards in a fifth consecutive game to match the franchise record set by Robert Smith in 2000.
“Somewhere he’s going to bust out on you,” coach Brad Childress said last Sunday after Peterson became the first player this season to reach 1,000 yards rushing.
After failing to rush for 100 yards in three straight games, Peterson has averaged 140.1 over the last four. However, three of the opponents he faced during that stretch rank in the NFL’s bottom 10 in run defense and two are among the bottom five, including the Packers.
Tampa Bay (6-3) ranks 11th against the run, giving up 99.3 yards per game, but that average is down to 69.0 in four home games. The Bucs have won all of those contests, holding opposing offenses to averages of 10.8 points and 218.3 total yards.
In their most recent game, however, they gave up a season-high 183 yards on the ground in a 30-27 overtime win at Kansas City on Nov. 2.
“We’ve got to double our efforts this week,” coach Jon Gruden told the Bucs’ official Web site. “(Peterson) is really something. No disrespect to anybody else, but this guy’s really something. … I know our guys are eager for this challenge.”
Coming off a bye week, Gruden and the Buccaneers are within a game of first-place Carolina in the NFC South.
They have won all five meetings with the Vikings at Tampa Bay since 1997, the Bucs’ final season at Tampa Stadium.
“We’ve got to play our best football and we’ve got to play our best football right away,” Gruden said. “We’ve got the leaders of the (NFC) North coming in here and they’re as talented as any team I’ve seen. We better not look any further than this week.”
While Minnesota’s rushing attack has been dominant lately thanks to Peterson — the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year—Tampa Bay hopes the 2005 winner of that award can provide some help for its ailing ground game.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday after being sidelined since September 2007 due to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
If Williams is healthy enough to play Sunday, the Bucs might have to make him a key part of the rushing game right away because the availability of their top two rushers is in question. Earnest Graham has a knee injury and may miss Sunday’s game, and Warrick Dunn has a pinched nerve in his back and did not play at Kansas City.
The Buccaneers are averaging 115.9 rushing yards this season, but they have been held below 100 in the last three games while averaging 2.7 per carry.
“If we could ever get Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham and Carnell Williams (together),” Gruden said, “that would be exciting for us.”
With Tampa’s running game struggling, quarterback Jeff Garcia has helped the team win three of four games since returning as the starter. He’s been very efficient during that 3-1 stretch, completing 70.4 percent of his passes for 1,049 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
His veteran counterpart has not been nearly as dependable lately.
Frerotte was 15-of-28 for 151 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday, but also threw three interceptions. The 15-year pro has been picked off eight times in the last three games.
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