Adrian Peterson will be the main focus of the Rams defense this week, and for good reason. The man is incredible. He has a shot to break the all time rushing record this season less than a year after he completely had his knee destroyed. He probably will not reach the record as he needs to average over 160 yards the last three games, but Peterson is averaging 6.0 yards per carry this season, and is close to unstoppable.
There is one other man the Rams need to keep their eyes on throughout the game; Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph is playing very well in his second year in the league. He only has 412 yards, but he has 8 TD catches. Rudolph isn't a fast athletic tight end, in fact he is rather slow, but he is 6' 6" and can jump with the best of them. This year he is become a force in the red zone, using his size and his great hands.
I'll say that again, great hands.
A player like Rudolph needs a good running game to be successful, so if the Rams somehow construct an unstoppable front line, Rudolph won't be a problem.
They have to be realistic though, they aren't going to have much success against Adrian Peterson. That isn't a shot at the defense, that is just a fact. Peterson has only been held under four yards a carry twice this season against the Colts and the 49ers, but yet he still averaged 73 yards in those games, which is an effective enough running attack to make play action dangerous for Minnesota.
If the Rams decide to run blitz to try and stop Adrain, Rudolph could easily slip behind the line backers and make a catch in the seam in front of the Rams lackluster safeties. If the Rams decide to have James Laurnaitis or one of the other backers cover Rudolph, he could easily use his height and jumping ability to make big plays, without needing to get much separation.
The Rams have a tough situation here. Adrain Peterson has to be contained, but then that would leave Rudolph open for big plays. If they decide to play more coverage with the line backers, Adrian could have himself a legendary day. What should they do?
First down of course is the most important down for the defense. If they can hold the running plays to shorter gains and stop the short quick throws from Christian Ponder, they will have a very successful day. But then again, stopping Adrain Peterson for an entire game is nearly impossible.
The Rams should play man coverage outside with the corners, trusting that a $50 million dollar man and a very talented rookie can help stop a poor Vikings receiving corp. They should also play Craig Dahl or Quintin Mikell close to the line every play to help in run support, while mixing up the coverage on Rudolph in play action situations, denying him the seam. Good ball control from the Rams offense would also do wonders Sunday.
Peterson may have a huge day and the Rams could still win, but if Kyle Rudolph also has a huge day, the Rams will likely be looking at a loss.