The job of containing Adrian Peterson is an obvious exercise in population control (as in “population tackling” to control the game’s best player). But the job of taking down Christian Ponder might fall heavily on Bears linebackers.
In the Minnesota Vikings’ 34-24 loss to Detroit, the Lions intercepted Ponder three times, the true difference in the game. Two of those interceptions were made by linebackers, one each by DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch, with Tulloch also leading the Lions in tackles and accounting for one of the three sacks of Ponder.
Containing Peterson is the prime directive, but if Ponder has shown anything, it is a looseness with the football. He has been intercepted at least once in 16 of his 28 NFL games, which is actually a rate better than Jay Cutler, and 18 times in his last 14 games.
A tenet of Bears game plans never changes and applies particularly to a target like Ponder: “We’re trying to take it away, and they’re trying to keep us from taking it away,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “We’ve just got to make a conscious effort to get the ball.”
Some of the Minnesota game-planning will involve looking to create mismatches for Peterson. In some instances that is expected to involve using nickel personnel packages, taking middle linebacker D.J. Williams off the field in favor of a defensive back, smaller and easier for Peterson to brush aside.
Linebackers were critical to Detroit’s stopping Peterson after his first (78-yard) run and forcing Ponder turnovers. It will be in the Vikings’ interest to get one off the field when they can.
“You have to be gap sound when you play a back that’s explosive like he is,” said Williams. “One guy that’s out of his gap, like you saw last week, it could be a 70-yard run. You saw what happened when people were gap-sound. You can contain him.”
The Matchup: MLB D.J. Williams vs. Vikings C John Sullivan
Sullivan was the victim of Ndamukong Suh’s $100,000 low block last week but is slated to start. One of his responsibilities is getting to Williams and either cutting off pursuit or forcing Williams wider to allow Peterson cutback lanes.