OAKLAND – Two weeks ago, the Raiders possessed the NFL’s second-best run defense. It was a point of pride then, part of a defensive identity ideally formed.
Then DeAngelo Williams happened, with the Pittsburgh running back churning out 170 yards in last week’s loss to the Steelers.
Aberration? Maybe not.
Adrian Peterson extended the skid another week, totaling 203 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. The star rusher’s 80-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter was the executioner’s blade, killing the Raiders comeback hopes in Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at O.co Coliseum.
“We beat ourselves today,” Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. said. “We were holding AP well early on, really throughout the first half. Then we started getting out of our gaps and he’s the type of back that will make you pay for those mistakes. We started off well, but we couldn’t close it out.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders lose to Vikings, drop to 4-5]
The Raiders were decent stopping Peterson in the first half. He had 49 yards in the first half, but didn’t have steady production outside a 17-yard scamper. He started taking yards in bigger chunks in the second half, which kept the Vikings moving and set up something substantive as the game wore on. The Raiders defense got tired, wasn’t as fundamentally sound tackling and Peterson turned it on.
“I would say that I’ve been feeling more agile, more explosive and quicker with my vision,” Peterson said. “It’s a better vibe when I get out there and get into a rhythm. It’s like it’s coming on a different level, like a Super Saiyan-type level. It feels good.”
When Peterson is at his best, he’s tough to stop.
“You have to be sharp the whole game,” linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “Eventually, he made us pay. We have to be sharper and more detailed and finish better. To this point, that’s been our downfall.”
The Raiders hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher before Williams struck. The Raiders hadn’t given up 200 yards to a single back since Nov. 4, 2012, when Doug Martin ran for 251 with Tampa Bay.
Peterson’s stats were padded by the late 80-yarder, but he had 123 before that back breaker. There was respect for one of the NFL’s best running backs, but the Raiders looked inward for the lofty run totals.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said slowing Peterson was a top priority, but his defense wasn’t able to stop him frequently enough. He kept the Vikings going when the pass game stalled, and eventually broke out for a big run.
“He’s a great player and he did things necessary to win the game,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “You can’t give up that long run. Can’t do it, and we did.”