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Vikings Three-and-Out: Peterson, Packers takeaways and stopping the run

  • Article by: Chip Scoggins
  • Star Tribune
  • November 21, 2013 - 12:37 AM

 

So about that quarterback change. …

Yes, the Vikings are sticking with Christian Ponder for another week. And the Packers are sticking with Scott Tolzien after he threw three interceptions in a loss to the New York Giants. And we’re sticking with three other things about Sunday’s matchup that we think you should know:

1. Sunday will mark Adrian Peterson’s 100th career game, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the 2012 MVP will be ready despite dealing with a groin injury that bothered him in the Seattle game.

Peterson has averaged 115.5 yards rushing in 13 career games against the Packers, and he needs only one rushing touchdown to reach double digits for a seventh consecutive season.

Injuries have limited Peterson’s ability to practice much during the week this season — he took Wednesday off again — and he said the groin injury eliminated some of his explosiveness last week against Seattle. If Peterson can’t play or is limited, the Vikings know they have a competent backup in Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart’s opportunities are virtually nonexistent as Peterson’s backup. He had only four carries all season before rushing seven times for 67 yards against Seattle on Sunday. Gerhart could see his workload increase some as Peterson recovers from his groin injury.

“I just do my thing every week,” Gerhart said. “I go out and practice hard and if my number gets called in a game, go out there and try and execute.”

2. The Packers have ranked among the NFL’s best in creating turnovers in recent years. Now they’re among the worst in that area this season.

The Packers have generated only nine takeaways in 10 games, and they’re tied for a league low with only four interceptions.

“I can’t really put an answer on that, but it’s not as if we’re not trying,” Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We’re definitely putting a lot of emphasis on getting that ball out and creating pressure on the quarterback and forcing turnovers and interceptions. It will continue to be a focus, and hopefully the ball will swing our way a few times.”

For comparison’s sake, since Dom Capers took over as defensive coordinator in 2009, the Packers have generated at least 32 turnovers in three of those four seasons. Their 142 takeaways since 2009 rank fourth in the NFL.

Green Bay is at minus-6 in turnover margin this season. The Packers are the only team in the league to finish in the top 10 in turnover differential the past six seasons.

3. Green Bay rookie running back Eddie Lacy is getting a taste of what Adrian Peterson experiences every week.

With Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined because of a broken collarbone, opposing defenses have changed their philosophy and are stacking the box to stop the run.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Green Bay’s first eight opponents put seven or more defenders in the box only 25.5 percent of their snaps.

In the past two games without Rodgers, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants combined to use an extra defender in the box on 48.4 percent of the snaps.

Green Bay rushed for 154 yards total in those two games, including only 55 yards against the Giants on Sunday. The Packers had eclipsed 100 yards rushing in seven consecutive games before Rodgers suffered his injury.

“[Teams] are definitely being more aggressive against the run game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Our run game has been effective this year, and it’s something we need to pick back up because we haven’t run the ball like we needed to the last two weeks.”

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