How Charles Woodson Allowed the Packers to Contain Adrian Peterson
My illustrious comrade, Josh Zerkle, called into question how useful the play of aging Packers defensive back Charles Woodson would be in the coming game against San Francisco, citing age and lack of playing time as why he will not help in taking down the 49ers.
I must humbly disagree.
Yes, Woodson is old and on the downside of his career. And yes, he's been out for several months.
However he was also a huge factor in holding Adrian Peterson to a modest—for Peterson—99 yards on the ground.
Frank Gore is very, very good, but he's not Adrian Peterson—especially this season. Here's what Woodson brought to the table Saturday night and will do again this weekend.
It's no secret that the Packers have once again not tackled well this season, especially against the run.
In their previous games, Peterson compiled 230 yards after contact. That means when someone hit Peterson, he just kept going. That's poor tackling, even if Peterson has done it to virtually everyone this year.
With Woodson back in the lineup, Peterson only had 32 yards after contact. When the Packers hit Peterson, he went down.
From the beginning of the game, Woodson was looking to get involved in run defense.
He played (mostly) strong safety and stayed behind as free safety Morgan Burnett jumped up to help contain Peterson on the very first play.
One thing Woodson did a lot during the game was play as a sort of a "safety net"—hanging back to watch the play and prevent Peterson from breaking off a big run when he hit the secondary.
While Peterson did have some bigger runs, he was unable to break off the back-breaking runs he did in their previous meetings.
On second down, Woodson played more aggressively against the run. After a brief hesitation, Woodson watched as right guard Brandon Fusco moved to assist center John Sullivan with a block.
Woodson then shot through the "B" gap and nearly corralled Peterson in the backfield. It is very clear that the hole Woodson sealed off was where Peterson was going—likely to a big gain.
Instead, Woodson forced Peterson outside, where he was contained for just a three-yard gain.
Two plays later, while playing as the "contain safety" (I'll be copyrighting that), Woodson nearly took Peterson down again, forcing him to backpedal into several other Packers defenders and containing what could have been a bigger run than the eight yards it went for.
Woodson's experience shone through on plays like that, where he could guess the right angle to attack Peterson at, forcing him into a different direction and into the waiting arms of teammates.
Perhaps the biggest play of the opening series came on a 2nd-and-5 at the Green Bay 13.
On the play, Woodson lined up at the left edge of the defensive line and immediately blitzed on the snap. He ran straight past two blockers and nailed Peterson before he could even reach the line of scrimmage.
This forced the Vikings to have Joe Webb throw—something which didn't work out for them at any time on Saturday.
In the end, the Vikings had to settle for a field goal.
Woodson continued to have a similar impact during the rest of the game, haunting the line of scrimmage on obvious run plays and sniffing out where Peterson was going, often forcing him to redirect into other Packers.
You can expect more of the same this weekend when the Packers travel to San Francisco.
Frank Gore is a very talented runner, though not at Peterson's level anymore.
Woodson will likely start at free safety again and play a similar role to the one he played against the Vikings and Peterson.
It will be complicated by the ability of Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run the option as well as throw the ball. The Vikings ditched the option early on Saturday (for reasons that are still completely unclear), but the Packers will get no such gift from the 49ers.
So along with keeping an eye on redirecting Gore, Woodson will probably be charged with spying on Kaepernick as well.
Woodson's presence could be as big a factor for the game at Candlestick as it was back in Lambeau Field.
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