Hungry Adrian Peterson vs. Bears’ terrible rush defense might make history
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter November 27, 2013 8:05PM
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Updated: December 30, 2013 12:13PM
The night before setting the NFL’s single-game rushing record in his eighth professional game, Adrian Peterson ate a bowl of strawberry ice cream.
So you couldn’t blame him if he gets superstitious and does it again Saturday night before the Minnesota Vikings play the Bears’ league-worst rush defense on Sunday.
‘‘I might just get a bowl or two,’’ he said Wednesday.
The Bears figure to provide the whipped cream, nuts and cherry the next day.
Peterson, who on Nov. 4, 2007, galloped for a historic 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers, is one of seven players to gash the Bears for triple-digit rushing yards this season. The Bears have allowed 145.2 rushing yards per game, worst in the NFL, and a good 40-yard dash worse than last season’s eighth-best 101.7.
Which is why, when asked Wednesday what his expectations were, Peterson was able to say the following with a straight face:
‘‘I just want to contribute and do whatever it takes to help my team win. If that’s 300 yards, perfect. If that’s 150, perfect. Fifty with a hundred and something receiving.’’
Wait — 300?
‘‘Don’t make that a headline,’’ he said.
At this point, it’d be surprising if he didn’t do something historic Sunday the Metrodome.
In the last five games, the Bears have given up 985 rushing yards — more than four NFL teams have allowed all season. Peterson leads the league with 226 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns. His 997 rushing yards trail NFL leader LeSean McCoy by 12.
Makes you think the guy’s mouth is watering — and not just for ice cream.
‘‘They may feel that way,’’ Bears rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene said. ‘‘We gave them a reason to feel that way.’’
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has been there before. Last season, his Jacksonville Jaguars finished 30th against the rush, one year after being ninth. But the Jaguars’ 4.1 yards allowed per attempt was 12th best in the league — and 0.1 yards better than the 2012 Bears.
Now, he’s trying to teach young guys on the fly.
‘‘We’re trying to accelerate the process with these guys and get them better faster as a unit,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘We don’t have a whole heck of a lot of time.”
Three Bears starters Sunday — defensive tackle Landon Cohen and linebackers Jon Bostic and Greene — didn’t play a single defensive down against the Vikings in Week 2. Starting cornerback Zack Bowman played two downs.
It’s no wonder Tucker referred to his unit as ‘‘learning on the job’’ — daunting enough without the world’s best rusher coming to down.
Bears coach Marc Trestman said his veterans, too, have erred by simply getting ‘‘caught up in trying to help the guys who are in their on-the-job training’’ in games.
In the Bears’ one-gap defense, anyone out of position — rookie or vet — creates a hole for Peterson to run through.
‘‘We just gotta make sure everybody’s doing their job,’’ Bostic said, ‘‘and then, once you’ve done your job, run to the football.’’
The Vikings’ rushing attack, schematically, is similar to the one the St. Louis Rams used to gash the Bears for 258 rushing yards.
‘‘Whenever you show weakness on film, a team is going to see that and try to exploit it,’’ Bears rookie defensive end David Bass said. ‘‘They’re gonna try to do some of the same things that worked against us, just to see if we corrected it.’’
But have they?
Greene said the Bears have to ‘‘do the exact opposite’’ of last week.
Not exactly inspiring, is it?
‘‘Of course, they’re not the defense that we played earlier this season,’’ Peterson said. ‘‘But we’ve still got to go out and execute and do things right to win this game.’’