MINNEAPOLIS -- All week long, the Eagles heard about how good Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is.
But it was the Vikings' *other *running back that gave the Eagles fits Sunday in their NFC wild card matchup.
That other back, Chester Taylor, and Peterson did their share of damage early, but it was far from enough as the Eagles sent the Vikings home for the offseason with a 26-14 win at the Metrodome. Defensive end Trent Cole paced the defense with 13 tackles, including one for a loss.
Peterson as expected was the workhorse with 20 carries for 83 yards, but most of the yards came on a 40-yard touchdown run up the middle in the second quarter. Take away that carry and Peterson averaged a pedestrian 2.2 yards per carry. To Peterson's credit, he added a second touchdown, a 3-yard run, late in the first half. But when the chips were down in the second half, Peterson had just 17 yards on eight carries. The Eagles scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to force the Vikings to abandon the running game. Photo Gallery : PHI vs. MIN 1-4-09
"(Peterson) had a good first half against us, but we made some adjustments and that speaks to the character of this defense," linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "When things don't always go perfect, we can still rally and play effectively."
Taylor was called into added duty early in the game when Brian Dawkins leveled Peterson with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter. The hit briefly forced Peterson out of the game. Even before Peterson's brief exit, Taylor came in on an assumed passing down and took an inside draw up the middle for 11 yards to convert a third-and-11.
Linebacker Chris Gocong agreed with the sentiment that Taylor was the more dangerous back on the afternoon as he finished with 48 yards on 12 carries and an additional 36 yards on five receptions.
"He could go to any team and start," Gocong said. "He's a great player. I think he's at his best when he's coming out of the backfield for checkdowns and stuff like that."
But even defensive coordinator Jim Johnson lofted high praise upon Peterson before the game, saying that he is "one of the best ones" he's ever seen. He meant of all-time. That came from 24 years as a coach at the professional level.
The acclaim was warranted. The second-year back became just the fifth player in NFL history to gain over 3,000 rushing yards in his first two seasons. He led the league with 1,760 rushing yards and had 10 games of 100-or-more yards. In the last five games of the regular season, Peterson gained 100-or-more rushing yards four times and each time the Vikings won.
The Eagles simply didn't allow Peterson to get off to a good start. His first two carries went for negative yards. His best carry in the first quarter was a 2-yard gain. Peterson finally got loose early in the second quarter. After a Sheldon Brown pass interference penalty on a third-and-3 kept the Vikings' drive alive, Peterson carried for 6 yards, 2 yards and the 40-yard touchdown on consecutive plays. On the touchdown run, the Eagles had a man blitz and the Vikings were able to get the Eagles out of position just enough so Peterson could head to the races.
Peterson only had 16 yards for the rest of the half, but the Eagles made some pivotal adjustments – stressing patience and gap control - to make sure he couldn't take the game over. Now with one playoff win in the bag, the journey to Tampa for the Super Bowl is another step closer. And having chopped down the league's leading rusher, the Eagles will be prepared for the hard-nosed Giants ground game next Sunday.
"That's what we were mentally prepared for and that's what the playoffs are ... It was a good character-building experience to go through," Bradley said. "It was a tough first-round game, but now you try and make a run here."