MINNEAPOLIS - On Saturday night, Jim Johnson got his defense together in a hotel meeting room to watch a short film. For lack of a better name, let's call it "The Best of Adrian Peterson." It featured about 15 to 20 of the Minnesota rookie's best runs this season.
"We showed them all of his runs over 10 yards," the Eagles' defensive boss said. "We said, 'Hey, if we can keep this guy from making 10-yard runs, we can win the football game."
In case his unit needed a little extra motivation, Johnson had the team's video people splice in some scenes from the movie "Gladiator" between Peterson's big runs.
"Coach Johnson likes to challenge us," said safety Sean Considine after the Eagles held Peterson, the league's leading rusher, to 3.5 yards per carry in the much-needed, 23-16 win. "There were some subliminal messages intertwined in those plays. It was really cool. It would go from one of his big plays to the next. But for a split-second in between, you'd see [a shot from the movie]."
Peterson, who came into the game averaging a stout 6.2 yards per carry, managed just 70 yards on 20 carries and had to earn every one of them. Thirteen of his 20 carries went for 2 yards or less. He had just two runs of more than 9 yards.
Johnson had to move a safety up and play eight men in the box most of the game against Peterson, which is something he doesn't like to do because it often leaves the rest of his secondary in one-on-one coverage situations.
But he figured he could get away with it against the Vikings' unimpressive group of quarterbacks. He figured right. Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger completed just 14 passes for 182 yards.
"You pick your poison," Johnson said. "But we did not want that guy rushing for 150-200 yards and beating us."
A week ago, Johnson's defense cost the Eagles a win over the Bears, allowing them to drive 97 yards in the final 2 minutes for a game-winning score. They didn't let the same thing happen yesterday.
After the Eagles took a seven-point lead on David Akers' third field goal of the game with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter, they had to hold the Vikings and did.
Trent Cole, their perpetual-
motion defensive end, ran Peterson down for a 6-yard loss. Then Jevon Kearse, who has spent most of this season invisible, dragged Bollinger down for a 5-yard loss. The Vikings were forced to punt and didn't get the ball back until there were just 15 second left.
"Those things are going to happen," Johnson said of the collapse against the Bears. "I told our guys that we're going to face that 2-minute situation again and you just have to have confidence and not worry about anything. Be aggressive."
"We wanted it on our shoulders, and it was," said middle linebacker Omar Gaither. "We had to keep them out [from driving down the field] and we did that."
Gaither finished with seven tackles, many of them on Peterson.
"The key to stopping him was tackling well," he said. "I can't stress how important it was for us to tackle well. You're going to be in open-field positions with him and I think we did a great job of bringing him down."
When the Eagles got their hands on Peterson, they usually brought him down. They studied the film and watched his tendencies. When he ran right, then tried to cut back left in the fourth quarter, Cole anticipated the move and wrestled him down for a 6-yard loss.
"From watching the film, I knew when he stopped, he was going to bounce it out. When he stops, he's going to bend it and go outside. I just sat down and made sure I met him at the point where he wanted to run it."
Said Johnson: "That was a great play by Trent. If he gets back
outside there, that's what you're scared about with him. You're scared about that guy every time he touches the ball because he has such great quickness and
acceleration that he can make a big play any time."
Not yesterday. Not against an Eagles defense that effectively answered any lingering questions about its ability to stop the run.
* To punter Sav Rocca, who
* To punter Sav Rocca, who
finally showed us why the Eagles kept him over Dirk Johnson, drilling a pair of 60-yard-plus shots in the fourth quarter.
* To much-maligned wide
receiver Reggie Brown who, for at least a week, can tell his talk-show critics to shove it after an eight-catch, 105-yard effort, that included a sweet, foot-dragging, 30-yard sideline catch on the Eagles' first touchdown drive. Brown has 25 receptions this season, which is exactly how many he had after seven games last year. *
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