The Broncos will face their biggest offensive threat to date when six-time All-Pro Vikings running back Adrian Peterson comes to town Sunday.
He’s well aware of Denver’s prowess on defense. The No. 1-ranked defense is hard to ignore. The Broncos have forced 10 turnovers through three games, with many coming late when the team needed them the most.
But Peterson isn’t one to fear a defense. He believes any defense will wear down if you run at them enough.
“I tell the guys all of the time that you’re not going to win every play. You might lose three in a row,” Peterson said. “But, the only thing that I ask of you is to get up, hit them in the mouth again and play physical. That sends a message to a guy.”
The Broncos have earned a reputation of having a no-fly zone in the secondary. Each time a quarterback drops back, there is a decent chance the play will end with a negative result, whether it be a sack, interception, incompletion or fumble. The Broncos have pressured the opposing quarterback a league-best 50 percent of the time when they have dropped back this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
But there still are lingering questions about their run defense. Denver stuffed the Ravens and Lions for a combined 101 rushing yards. But in between, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 125 yards for a 6-yard average.
During playoff time, the teams who run the ball well and stop the run usually are the teams that advance. Peterson plans to test the Broncos on Sunday.
“I don’t care how many times he’s whipping you. He knows that I’m about to come with everything that I have every play,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be big for us to be physical up front, and once we establish that, everything else will be a little easier for us.”
They call Peterson “All Day” in Minnesota, the nickname is a reference to how long Peterson carves up a defense.
Peterson forced 10 missed tackles Sunday, and rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns to help the Vikings to a 31-14 victory over San Diego.
“We better tackle well as a team,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s the best in the business, has been for a long time.”
The scary part is he said he’s just now getting into full football shape after missing most of last season. He was suspended for the last 15 games because of child-abuse allegations. His return has sparked a boost in the mentality of a Vikings team looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
“He helps with the physicality in the offensive line,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He helps with the receivers blocking and just the way he runs with violence.”
Through three games, Peterson is the NFL’s leading rusher with 291 yards. That’s 203 more than the Broncos’ leading rusher Ronnie Hillman.
As much as the Broncos’ defense likes to get sacks and force turnovers, it’ll be up to the Broncos’ run stoppers — led by nose tackle Sylvester Williams — to contain Peterson, or face the consequences.