Bolts' woes vs. run seem like broken record

Bolts' woes vs. run seem like broken record
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings runs for a first down in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers on November 4, 2007, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (K.C. Alfred/Union-Tribune)

Adrian Peterson did not know he had broken the NFL record for rushing yards in a game until informed on his way off the field.

His first reaction was disappointment.


"I could have had 300," he said.

To this day, Peterson laments that he was on the sideline for a number of fourth-quarter plays.


A lot has changed since Peterson, then a rookie, slashed through, ran over and sped around the Chargers defense for an NFL record 296 yards (253 in the second half) on Nov. 4, 2007, the last time the Chargers played a regular season game in this city.

Offenses are substantially different. Teams are passing an average of five percent more. Rushing attempts are down two percent, and more backs are splitting those carries.

The careers of NFL players pass in dog years. Just a couple pups from that game – Peterson the only Viking on offense and Eric Weddle the only Chargers defender – will be on the field together Sunday when the Chargers visit the Vikings for the first time since '07.

That game is almost entirely irrelevant to the one that will take place Sunday. Ancient history.


"I've dusted off a lot of tapes," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of his preparation this week. "That isn't one of them."

If history lessons serve any purpose, though, San Diego should be a little nervous. Especially considering more recent events.

The Chargers defense is allowing 4.7 yards per carry, getting blown away from the ball with enough frequency that the team's head coach used the practically profane "soft" in describing its play.

Take heed, too, Peterson believes he can set another record.

"It's possible," he said. "You've just got to get on a roll. It's got to be one of those days."

That's how the greats think. And Peterson is, as Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano noted without any hyperbole, "one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL."

Certainly, it is unlikely Peterson, now 30 years old, comes anywhere close to that record. Just two players have come within 40 yards of Peterson's mark in the past seven-plus seasons. He has topped 200 three times since his record day but hasn't gone more than 212. Of the 3,587 games since the start of the 2000 season, just 69 players have even had 200 rushing yards in a game.

But, then, watching the Chargers defend the run can't preclude it as a possibility. Besides, it wouldn't take a record to ruin the Chargers' chances at victory.


While Peterson had 247 of his yards after Luis Castillo left that '07 game with an ankle injury on the second play of the third quarter, the record was achieved against the rest of what at the time was considered one of the toughest in the NFL.

This is not that front.

This Chargers front has only Corey Liuget who can be said to be close to consistent against the run. End Kendall Reyes can be assessed as consistently below average. Tackle Sean Lissemore is exceptional, then invisible, which is the definition of inconsistent. The only physical inside linebacker (rookie Denzel Perryman) isn't playing quickly enough to get any defensive snaps yet. Donald Butler and Manti Te'o run hot and cold on being where they're supposed to be and often have trouble overcoming their size limitations.

The Chargers are giving up the sixth-most yards per rush overall, at 4.7 per. That includes an absurd 3.87 yards before contact. That's ridiculous. Almost half the teams in the NFL aren't allowing that many total yards per carry.

On 14 rush plays up the middle, they're allowing an average of 7.4 yards, which is fourth-most in the NFL on such plays. Teams are gaining four or more yards on 51.9 percent of their rushes against the Chargers, which is the fourth-highest rate allowed through two weeks.

Assessing his defense last week, Mike McCoy said, "There were plenty of times (the Cincinnati Bengals) were held to what we called winning plays, and there were plenty of times they were too soft."

That might sound like typical McCoy banality unless you know how much of an indictment NFL folks consider the word "soft."

It was alarming to watch Bengals back Jeremy Hill go up the middle for nine yards, Giovanni Bernard go around the right side for nine yards two plays later and Hill get five through the left side on the next play. It was 23 yards on three runs against the Chargers' base defense. Reyes was essentially a spectator on all three. Lissemore might have subbed in dress shoes for that series, and Te'o simply couldn't get off blocks.

If not for Donald Butler's strip at the end of Hill's easy six-yard run on the fifth play in that sequence, the Bengals almost certainly might have just kept pounding the ball down the field. (One thing the Chargers are doing well so far is taking the ball away, with four takeaways through two games; and while Peterson had 134 yards on 29 carries, he also fumbled twice last week, losing one.)

"This defense we're going up against, they're a little smaller (than the Chargers' front seven in '07), but they're quicker and faster off the ball," Peterson said Thursday. "They can play good against the run. They haven't showed that the past two weeks, but I'm sure coming into Minnesota, playing against us, they'll want to make sure that they're ready to defend the run."

They'd better be. Or this problem with the run could become a broken record.