The Buccaneers, who rank third in the NFL in rush defense, have defenders who can match the size, strength and speed of any back in the league. This Thursday, however, the most important thing they’ll have to match, when it comes to stopping the Minnesota Vikings’ rushing attack, is Adrian Peterson’s will.
“He runs like you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking you can stop him,” said Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who like Peterson is a former Oklahoma Sooner. “He runs like, ‘Shame on you for even attempting to tackle me. I’m going to show you why you can’t tackle me.’ That’s how he runs.”
Peterson’s incredible drive is evident simply by the fact that he is back in the Vikings’ backfield, running effectively again after suffering a torn ACL last December. Many outside observers expected the sixth-year back to be brought along slowly during the first half of 2012, but instead he has taken his usual spot among the NFL’s leading rushers. Through seven weeks, Peterson is tied for third in the NFL with 652 rushing yards, and he’s picking up 4.8 yards per carry, which happens to exactly match his career average.
Defensive end Michael Bennett is from the Houston area, like Peterson, and this offseason he kept hearing tales of Peterson’s amazing rehab and weight-lifting feats. With that in mind, Bennett wasn’t surprised to see Peterson hit the ground running in September.
“He’s just one of those amazing guys,” said Bennett. “I’ve been playing against him my whole career, in college and the NFL, and he’s one of those guys that always shows up. He’s a powerful runner.
“It’s his will. A lot of running backs are fast, a lot of running backs are strong, but I think it’s just his will, his will not to go down. You always hear him talk about how great he wants to be, so that’s why he never goes down. Everybody has to come to play when you play a guy like this.”
The Bucs have come to play against the run all season, giving up just 76.0 yards per game and leading the league with 3.1 yards allowed per carry. It will take their best effort to keep that rolling against a player that McCoy isn’t even sure is made of flesh and blood.
“All he needs is a tiny seam and he can embarrass you,” said McCoy. “And he’s a freak of nature. People talk about Megatron, Calvin Johnson and his superb athleticism. Well, the thing about Adrian Peterson, the way he tore his ACL and how he’s already back running as fast and hard as he is…you’ve just got to kind of look at that as a freak of nature. He’s amazing. That dude’s a machine. I don’t even think he’s human.”