Prior to this season, the Packers have had some success against Adrian Peterson. From 2009-2011, they’ve had at least one game where they held Peterson to under 100 yards rushing. In November of last year, their 31st ranked defense held Peterson to 51 yards. So it is possible.
Over the years, when Peterson has hurt the Packers, it’s been by bouncing runs outside after drawing everyone in. That was never more evident than today’s game.
The Packers’ defensive line actually did a very good job clogging up the middle. Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Worthy, et al caused Peterson to have to stop and look to bounce outside. When the Packers have had success stopping Peterson, there have been players outside waiting for Peterson. In last night’s game there was mostly no one.
Correction. In a few cases, Tramon Williams was there, but it was still like having no one.
All week, Mike McCarthy kept talking about how their focus was on stopping Peterson. Supposedly, they spent an unusual amount of time in practice (for this point in the season) on tackling drills.
I really thought defensive coordinator Dom Capers would have a special plan for Peterson today. I was sorely disappointed. The entire Packers’ defense kept getting sucked inside, showing little positional integrity. Capers played it like Peterson was just another running back. Despite all the talk, there was nothing special for Peterson.
So what should the Packers do?
OLBs Stay Put: On many occasions in this game, the Packers’ OLBs joined the pile in the middle in an attempt to stop Peterson. In way too many cases, Peterson had nowhere to go, so he just bounced it wide to where there was plenty of open space. If the OLBs had kept their outside position, Peterson would have had a far different game. Perhaps he would have gained a few more yards up the middle, but that’s much preferable to letting him run in space where he has only safeties and corners to deal with (and run through).
Spy Peterson: One option might be to use a spy. A player who’s main job is to be mirror Peterson to whatever side he bounces to. It’s no guarantee of anything, but at least there would be ONE player in position to maybe hold Peterson to an eight yard run instead of a 40 yard run. By coincidence, the player that could be best suited for this role is supposedly returning for the playoffs: Charles Woodson. The advantage of using Woodson would be that if it is not a running play, you have a wily veteran DB who knows how to read the passing routes and quickly drop into the right spots.
Big Oakie: Back in 2009, Caper’s first season, the Packers gave up 141 yards to current Packer Cedric Benson. With Stephen Jackson coming up next, Capers devised his “Big Oakie” variation of the packers base 3-4 (Oakie) defense. In the big Oakie, the Packers bring in a fifth linebacker to play a hybrid safety/linebacker position (they used Brandon Chillar in 2009). The package is best used against teams that are heavily one-dimensional towards the running game. Does that sound like anyone we know?
I’m no genius defensive coordinator. Hell, I’m not even a below-average defensive coordinator. But I do know the Packers have to do something different than what they’ve done against Peterson this season. These are just a few thoughts that come to mind.
But surely Dom has an even better idea, right? Right? Dom?
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.