For any defense, stopping the run is always the first thing to on in terms of game day preparation.
That basic NFL tenet is tested nowadays given that this is increasingly a pass-first league, though.
On Saturday vs. Minnesota, the Redskins’ run defense will surely be tested against the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, one of the game’s elite backs. He leads the offense with 932 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
At 6-1 and 217 pounds, Peterson combines good size with breakaway speed. He can be tough for any one defender to bring down as a result.
Surprisingly, the Redskins have fared well against Peterson in past matchups.
In a December 2007 game in Minnesota, the Redskins’ defense limited Peterson – then a rookie – to just nine carries for 27 yards in a 32-21 win.
Last year at FedExField, Peterson was off to a strong start with six carries for 36 yards and one touchdown before he was sidelined with an ankle injury. The Vikings held on to win that game 17-13.
The Vikings’ run game is ranked fourth in the NFL – they average 142.7 yards per game.
When Peterson went down with his ankle injury, then-rookie Toby Gerhart replaced him and he churned out 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Gerhart is 6-0 and 231 pounds and presents an equally tough challenge to bring down.
Add in that the Vikings boast a solid offensive line led by All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson and the Redskins will face a significant test.
The Redskins’ defense struggled against the run midseason. Starting with the Week 6 game vs. Philadelphia, the defense yielded an average of 160.8 rushing yards over the next four contests.
That changed in Week 10 at Miami. From that point on, through last Sunday’s 23-10 win over the New York Giants, the defense has yielded an average of 97.8 yards per game.
Not only that, the opponents' average yards per carry in that six-game stretch was just 3.6 yards.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Miami game is when
Perry has posted 70 tackles this season, including five tackles for a loss. He is joined in the middle by tackling machine
Simply put, the run defense has not yielded as many big plays as it had earlier in the season.
“I think it’s just a better understanding of the defense and everybody playing together,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said earlier this month. “Our guys have a pretty good feel [for run defense]. We’re getting different runs at us each week because of the scheme. We just have to adjust to it as we go.”
The Redskins’ run defense has improved to 15th in the league, allowing an average of 112.0 yards on the ground.