LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Of all the statistical trends strewn about, the Bears hope the one about Adrian Peterson’s declining production against Chicago holds true Sunday when it hosts the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.
After reeling off 7.6 yards per attempt against Chicago in two games as a rookie, Peterson has watched his numbers dramatically decrease in four subsequent contests against the Bears, giving the club optimism about the prospects for continuation of the downward spiral.
“He’s like anybody else,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “He’s a running back and when he gets the ball, we have to tackle him. He’s done well against us in the past.”
Presently, though, Peterson’s rushing numbers against the Bears continue to dip, which seems interesting, considering the running back’s overall rushing statistics have remained steady.
“He’s got a rare combination of great power and speed,” said Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “His ability to cutback [is impressive], he’s strong and his endurance is special.”
Peterson took 40 handoffs against the Bears as a rookie in two games, and churned out 302 yards and five touchdowns. In his second season (2008), Peterson cranked out a career-high 1,760 yards to go with 10 touchdowns. Yet his yards-per-carry average dipped against the Bears (5.0 yards) as Peterson rushed for 50 fewer yards in two outings against the club and two fewer TDs, despite taking 10 more handoffs.
Peterson’s decline against Chicago continued last season with his yards per carry falling to 3.7 on 49 attempts, with the running back gaining 179 yards and scoring three touchdowns. That production could tumble even further Sunday against a Bears team that ranks No. 3 against the run (83.9-yard average).
“We’ve played pretty well against the run this year overall. There have been times we’ve screwed up,” Urlacher said. “We’ll try to stay in our gaps and get him on the ground. We have to get off blocks. That’s all there is to it.”
Added cornerback Tim Jennings: “Every running back is capable of breaking one here or there to kind of get an offense going. We know what Adrian Peterson is capable of. We are focusing though on what he’s able to do.”
Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted to Peterson starting his career off fast against his team. Peterson exploded for 224 yards and three touchdowns during his 2007 debut against Chicago at Soldier Field, but finished with 78 yards on 20 attempts in the second meeting between the teams.
Based on his current statistics, Peterson is on pace for 1,714 yards -- which marks his second-best season as a pro in terms of yardage -- in addition to 14 touchdowns.
Yet it appears the Bears might have finally figured out the formula for neutralizing the running back.
“[His numbers] started up there pretty high against us, you know, because he came onto the scene and had some great games against us early on,” Smith said. “So that had a little bit to do with it. But we feel like we’ve gotten better because we know he’s the kind of guy you have to be ready to play on every down against. He’s a special player, and has been that way since he got into the league. Of course we have a history with him.”
Turning to walk back toward the offices off the practice fields at Halas Hall, Smith made a chopping gesture with his left hand, keeping his voice barely audible.
“We just hope the numbers keep going on down against us,” he muttered.
Based on history, there’s a good chance it happens.