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News » TALL ORDER


TALL ORDER


TALL ORDER
With Adrian Peterson And The Vikings Coming To Raymond James, The Bucs Defense Is Facing A ...


By ROY CUMMINGS

rcummings@tampatrib.com

TAMPA - Out in Minnesota, where the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox grew, folks have been known to weave a tall tale or two. The tales some have woven of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson seem rather tall themselves.

One Vikings teammate tells of the time Peterson tried coercing a group of players into running gassers with him after a full-padded training camp practice.

Another tells of the time he walked into a gymnasium - again, shortly after a training camp practice - and saw Peterson doing pull-ups; one after another; up, down, up down.

Then there's the story of Peterson supposedly telling a group of teammates bent over from exhaustion and gasping for air after a stretch of grueling practice drills not to worry, to "just lean on me."

For two years now the Vikings have been doing just that. Hard to blame them. Midway through his second season, Peterson is already the NFL's premier running back, a player no one can seem to stop.

Just last week he ran for 192 yards against Green Bay. That pushed his rushing total for the season to a league-best 1,015 yards, meaning a 2,000-yard season is still possible.

We shouldn't be surprised. Two months before training camp started, Peterson told reporters that running for 2,000 yards was one of his goals for this season. It's enough to make folk heroes like Bunyan blush.

"The kid's a stud, man; he really is," Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan said. "You talk about the top two backs in the league and I'll put him at No. 1 right now. The kid's special."

So is the Bucs defense. Until two weeks ago, when it slipped up for a half against the Kansas City Chiefs, it hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher or even a rushing touchdown all season.

Today at Raymond James Stadium, in a game that could go a long way toward determining whether these two teams reach the playoffs, the unstoppable object and the immovable force collide.

"It's real exciting for us," Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud said, "because the whole reason you're in the NFL is to play against the best and he's probably the premier back in the league right now."

No hyperbole there. Since coming into the league last year, no one has run for more yards than Peterson, who has already set a string of team and league rushing records, including one for most yards in an NFL game (296). Peterson hasn't run for 200 or more yards in a game this year, but many believe he will.

"His explosion, his running ability, the way he break tackles, if he keeps doing what he's doing right now he'll be remembered for a long time to come," Hovan said.

Peterson's coach, Brad Childress, remembers watching the former Oklahoma back up close for the first time during his team's 2007 rookie minicamp. Right then and there, Childress said, he knew he had someone special.

"When you watched him you said 'Wow,'" Childress said. "And it's carried over with pads; it's carried over through training camps and onto the field. He's just a rare talent."

The Bucs aren't afraid to acknowledge that. They willingly admit they've got their hands full today. But they also believe Peterson is about to face his toughest test yet.

The Bucs have already faced six of the league's top 10 rushers - Michael Turner (Atlanta), Matt Forte (Chicago), Marion Barber (Dallas), DeAngelo Williams (Carolina), Ryan Grant (Green Bay) and Julius Jones (Seattle). As a group, though, those half-dozen backs have gained just 291 yards on 96 carries, or 3.0 yards per carry.

"That's one thing I've always respected about those guys," Peterson said. "I've always really liked Tampa Bay because of their defense. I'm really looking forward to going against those guys."

The feeling is mutual. Hovan got so excited just talking about facing Peterson last week that he broke into a sweat. Ruud got so excited the words shot from his mouth like bullets from a machine gun.

"If you can't get up for this game you don't deserve to be in the NFL," Bucs defensive lineman Jovan Haye said. "This is what this league is all about. It's about facing the best. And he's the best."

A couple of unique traits make him that way. One is his ability to maintain his speed while he makes his cuts. The other is his ability to consistently break tackles.

"That's the thing that makes him so dangerous," Bucs left end Kevin Carter said. "And this guy, if he breaks a tackle he could be gone. So we have to make sure we have other guys there in case that happens."

The Bucs will have 11 guys there if they have to. Their game plan is to swarm to the ball carrier and hit him hard. That's been their approach all along. It's obviously working. It was until they got to Kansas City, anyway.

"That was a bump in the road," Haye said. "We weren't ourselves in that game. Not in the first half anyway. But we definitely have to get back to playing the way we were before the Chiefs game, and I think we will.

"I mean, talk is cheap, but this is a big game for us. This is a big challenge, because this guy is a great back. You don't always want to throw that word out, but with this guy, you've got to give him his props; he's a great back."

(CHART) STAFF PICKS

Roy Cummings

Bucs 17, Vikings 13:

Defense does it again for the Bucs.

Ira Kaufman

Vikings 17, Bucs 13:

Garcia's 50th pass attempt of the day falls incomplete.

Anwar S. Richardson

Bucs 27, Vikings 17:

The Buccaneers defense contains Peterson in win

BUCS LEADERS

PASSING

Garcia: 1,363 yds., 5 TDs, 3 INTs, 68.5 comp. pct.; 89.6 QB Rating

RUSHING

Graham: 131 att., 560 yds., 4 TDs

Dunn: 89 att., 423 yds., 1 TD

RECEIVING

Bryant: 45 catches, 566 yds., 2 TDs

Hilliard: 33 catches, 281 yds., 3 TDs

DEFENSE

Adams: 4 sacks, 2 INTs

White: 3.5 sacks

Talib: 3 INTs

Ruud: 2 sacks, 2 INTs

Vikings LEADERS

PASSING

Frerotte: 1,619 yds., 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 57.1 comp. pct.; 74.0 QB Rating

RUSHING

Peterson: 206 att., 1,015 yds., 7 TDs

RECEIVING

Berrian: 30 catches, 621 yds., 4 TDs

Wade: 36 catches, 387 yds.

DEFENSE

Allen: 8 sacks

Winfield: 2 INTs, 2 sacks

K. Williams: 7 sacks

Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson set a goal to reach the 2,000-yard mark this season. He heads into this afternoon's game against the Bucs with 1,015 yards through nine games.

Photo: Adrian Peterson

Vikings running back

Photo: Roy Cummings

Photo: Ira Kaufman

Photo; Anwar S. Richardson

Copyright ? 2008, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 19, 2008

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