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How Bears plan to attack Vikings’ Adrian Peterson

Updated: September 12, 2013 1:19PM



D.J. Williams has played in 128 NFL games but has shared the field with Adrian Peterson fewer times than a Soldier Field rent-a-cop.

While many members of the Bears’ veteran defense are used to seeing the Minnesota Vikings twice a year, Williams has faced their running back exactly once in his regular-season career. In 2007, the rookie gained 36 yards on 11 carries against Williams’ former team, the Denver Broncos.

“I’m excited to play against him — he’s considered to be one of the best backs in the league — and just go against him,” Williams, signed in March to replace Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker, said Wednesday after practice at Halas Hall. “Not physically, myself, but the whole defense.”

Fairly or not, Williams will be compared to Urlacher against a power runner such as Peterson. But the Bears swear a group effort is the key Sunday to stopping the man who last year ran for 2,097 yards, nine shy of the all-time record.

Cornerback Charles Tillman said the Bears need to “population-tackle.” Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said “everyone’s got to do their job” against “one of the best backs to ever play the game.”

“You very seldom see the first guy bring him down,” said strong-side linebacker James Anderson, who faced Peterson three times with the Carolina Panthers. “When you’ve got a guy that can make the first guy miss, he can get yards after contact. It makes for a very difficult tackle.”

That it does.

“I’m sure most corners don’t want to tackle Adrian Peterson,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, a Bears cornerback from 1981 to ’86. “Nor did they want to have to tackle Walter [Payton].”

Group effort worked for the Detroit Lions last Sunday.

Peterson ran a ridiculous counter to the left side for a 78-yard touchdown on his first touch of the season — he sat out the entire preseason — but was bottled up afterward, gaining 15 yards on his last 17 carries.

The reason: Detroit put eight defenders in the box on 15 of his first 16 tries.

“He’ll be all we can handle,” coach Marc Trestman said. “The guys here know that. They’ve played against him enough to know that.”

Not so with Williams, who started Sunday despite missing all four preseason games with a right calf injury. He made seven tackles — four were credited after re-evaluating tape — on 42 defensive snaps.

More telling: His backup, Jon Bostic, didn’t appear on defense.

Williams’ conditioning “was better than we thought,” Trestman said.

“I think he’s going to just get better,” he said.

Williams is used to change — Denver had seven defensive coordinators in his last seven years there — so he adjusted to the Bears’ preseason scheme without taking the field.

“It was frustrating because I still gotta prove that I can play,” Williams said. “I wanted to see the guys actually see me play.”

Williams thought he “flew around pretty well” against the Bengals.

“Coming off a month and a half of basically doing nothing, just practicing, the game’s going to feel a lot faster,” he said. “I felt I made the right keys. I didn’t do anything to hurt the defense.

“But, you know, each week you’ve got to pick it up and progress and play better the next week.”

Even if that week features Peterson, fresh off one of the great seasons in NFL history.

Like Williams, Trestman doesn’t need to see Peterson in person — he hasn’t — to know what the Bears are facing.

“I don’t have to look at the tape to evaluate him,” Trestman said. “He’s exactly what you see every time he touches the ball.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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