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Falcons' Justin Durant on Adrian Peterson: 'Not a normal human being'

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Do a search on Paul Soliai and Adrian Peterson and you'll find a photo from 2010 with Soliai, then a 340-pound nose tackle with the Miami Dolphins, trying to corral the dynamic, 217-pound Minnesota Vikings running back on a first-quarter play.

Soliai's effort went for naught.

"I thought I had the tackle, and he just slipped off," said Soliai, now with the Atlanta Falcons. "When my family ask me, 'Do you remember Adrian Peterson?' I always say, 'Yeah, he stiff-armed me. You can't miss it. There's a picture of me on Google."

Even after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee during the 2011 season, the 30-year-old Peterson hasn't lost his step. He comes to the Georgia Dome this Sunday as the NFL's leading rusher with 1,006 yards on 208 carries and six touchdowns.

"That's the best running back I've ever played against my whole career," Soliai said. "He just has an attitude when he has the ball. He doesn't care how far back he lines up. He knows he's going to get that 1 to 2 yards. If it's not 1 or 2, he breaking it all the way. For a back to line up that far back -- 9 yards back -- I give him a lot of respect. He just shows up and tells you, 'I'm going to be a top-notch back.'"

The Falcons have the NFL's top run defense, surrendering just 87.4 yards per game. All of that will mean nothing, however, if they allow Peterson to control the game with his legs.

"Right now, I think he looks a little more agile with his jump cuts and the way he's able to check the gaps," Falcons outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield said. "He doesn't look like he's trying to be a bruiser as much as he was. Sometimes early in his career, I thought he was chasing people to take him down. But as you get older in the league, you understand that you take all these crazy hits on your body.

"For us, everybody has to be gap sound and get off blocks. You don't want to give him that 5-yard space because he'll turn it into a home run. We have to swarm the football, with everybody getting hats on the ball and stopping that run."

The Falcons haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Released Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle came close with 87 yards on 14 carries. Tampa Bay's Doug Martin, the league's second-leading rusher behind Peterson, managed just 71 yards on 23 carries against the Falcons.

Schofield, who has four tackles for losses, will be a key figure against the run. He is expected to get more snaps in the base defense at strongside linebacker over Brooks Reed, who was signed for his run-stopping. Soliai also has done a solid job stuffing the run as of late, while linebackers Justin Durant and Paul Worrilow will be counted upon to be sure tacklers against the elusive Peterson.

Durant, who played two seasons with the Detroit Lions, saw plenty of Peterson while in the NFC North.

"He might be better," Durant said. "He's a tough guy to play against. He's got everything you want as a running back: power, speed, vision."

Durant was asked if he's surprised Peterson continues to play at a high level particularly after the '11 knee injury.

"Nah, he's not a normal human being," Durant said. "So, I'm not surprised at all."