LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — For one brief moment, it was 2007 all over again in Adrian Peterson’s mind.
The Minnesota Vikings’ star couldn’t help but think about his own spectacular performance against the Chicago Bears when he saw Detroit’s Jahvid Best go 88 yards untouched to the end zone on Monday night.
One big run brought on one big flashback. Now, he’s wondering if a replay is in order.
Peterson will try to create more havoc against a defense that is giving up big plays at an alarming rate when the Vikings (1-4) visit the Bears (2-3) on Sunday night. If he does, it won’t be the first time he ran wild at Soldier Field.
Four years ago, Peterson blew through Chicago like a winter wind gust and was a one-man highlight reel in just his fifth game as a pro, running for a club-record 224 yards while leading Minnesota to a three-point win. Three weeks later, he set the NFL mark with 296 yards against San Diego, but his total against the Bears still stands as an all-time high for an opponent.
When he saw Best break off that big run during the Lions’ 24-13 victory over Chicago, he had a flashback.
“It was a feeling of, ‘Hey, if the guys are willing, we’re going to be able to take advantage and get something like that out of ’em also this Sunday night,”‘ he said. “We’ll see how things pan out.”
So far, things aren’t panning out well — for either team.
Detroit and Green Bay, the last two unbeaten teams at 5-0, are threatening to make it a two-way race in the NFC North after Chicago won the division last season.
If the Bears or Vikings are going to make a move, they’d better start now.
“They just don’t hand out championships this early in the season,” coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s as simple as that. Five wins won’t get you anywhere.”
He was quick to point out that the Bears turned their season around a year ago just when it looked like they were basically finished and went on a run that catapulted them all the way to the NFC championship game.
What’s happening so far is in many ways eerily familiar.
The play-calling at times has been heavily skewed toward the pass. The offensive line is a mess. And Jay Cutler continues to be harassed every time he drops back.
He was dodging the onslaught against the Lions all night, sidestepping the rush and still throwing for 249 yards. He was only sacked three times, but it easily could have been more.
As it is, Cutler is tied with Sam Bradford and Tarvaris Jackson for the league lead with 18 sacks after being taken down 52 times a year ago. He acknowledges the pounding is taking a mental toll on him, and he put out a call for adjustments this week — specifically, getting the ball out of his hands sooner.
“Physically, it’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “Mentally, it just speeds up my clock. It just makes me uneasy in the pocket. You take your eyes from downfield and you kind of check to see what’s going on in front of you, so psychologically and mentally, it’s more than anything. I just don’t want to take the sack. I’m just trying to get rid of the ball as fast as possible.”
Running plays designed to allow him to release the ball earlier might cut down on the number of hits he’s absorbing behind a line that ranks 30th — and facing another big challenge this week. All the Bears have to do is hold off NFL sacks leader Jared Allen and Brian Robison, and on the other side, the Bears defense needs to find a way to contain the NFL’s second leading rusher.
Peterson (498 yards) trails only Oakland’s Darren McFadden (519). He was particularly good in the early going of last week’s 34-10 win over Arizona, becoming the fifth player since 1970 to rush for three touchdowns in the first quarter.
Not only do the Bears rank 29th overall on defense, they’re 28th against the run. They’ve allowed a combined six rushing and passing plays of at least 40 yards, matching their total from last year, and to add to their pain, Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers might be limited if he plays. He mildly sprained his left knee Monday night, but even before then, he wasn’t causing his usual havoc.
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