By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor believes the defense made a statement by holding Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in check, and he doesn’t appreciate anyone discounting it one bit.
After the Browns upset the Vikings 31-27 on Sunday at the Metrodome, Peterson wrote the following on Twitter that night: “So my daughter is laying here under me and just out the blue she says ... I can’t believe you lost to the Browns Daddy! Smh [Shaking my head].”
Taylor retweeted the comment but apparently he didn’t think it was cute or funny.
“We knew playing against the Vikings would be a good test for us, having Adrian Peterson,” Taylor said Monday in the Browns’ locker room. “We showed what type of defense we’re about. But obviously we still don’t get the respect that we deserve, so we have to keep going out there and doing what we’ve got to do.
“He can say what he wants, but he wasn’t a factor in the game. He had less than 100 yards. The only reason they really scored, they got the ball on the 9, they got the ball on the 26, other than that, it wasn’t really a big game [for their offense].”
The Browns limited Peterson to 88 yards on 25 carries (3.5 average). Peterson’s rushing total and average per carry were the lowest of this young season.
The Browns (1-2) hope to continue to thrive against the run when they face the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) in an AFC North matchup Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
So my daughter is laying here under me and just out the blue she says... I can't believe you lost to the Browns Daddy! Smh— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) September 23, 2013
The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, Peterson averaged less than 4 yards per carry in only three games last season. He averaged 3.8, 3.4 and 3.4 yards an attempt in Weeks 2, 3 and 16, respectively. He ran for more than 100 yards in 10 games and finished with 2,097 yards, 9 shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
“We know we’re a good run defense, and we pride ourselves on being a good run defense,” inside linebacker Craig Robertson said. “A.P.’s the best back in the league. So, yeah, that’s giving us more and more confidence. We held it down. Keeping A.P. under 100 yards, that’s a goal in itself.”
Peterson ran for a 2-yard touchdown to cap the opening possession, but inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who led the team with 10 tackles, forced him to fumble in the third quarter, and outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard sprained his left knee as he made the recovery. It was one of three takeaways the Browns compiled — strong safety T.J. Ward intercepted a pass that Robertson deflected, and Sheard forced a fumble that Robertson recovered.
“We just knew he was an opponent that we were going to really have to take seriously and just hunker down and make plays and rally to him and get the ball out,” said left defensive end Ahtyba Rubin, who made his 2013 regular-season debut against the Vikings after missing the first two games with a strained calf. “We did that on Sunday, and great results came from that.”
Run defense has been a glaring weakness of the Browns since their expansion era began in 1999. Last season, they allowed 118.6 rushing yards per game to tie for 18th in the league, their best ranking by far during that span and only the second time they’ve finished higher than 27th since their rebirth.
But this season, the results have been much better in the 3-4, multi-front scheme employed by new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Through Sunday, the Browns had the NFL’s eighth-ranked run defense (84.3 rushing yards allowed per game).
“I think those guys did a great job and have done a great job,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Ray Horton and the defense, that scheme has always been really strong against the run. That’s one of the things that I wanted to bring here for that reason.”
In the first two games this season, the Browns held the Miami Dolphins to 20 yards on 23 carries (0.9 average) and the Baltimore Ravens to 99 yards on 36 carries (2.8 average). The Vikings finished with 31 carries for 134 yards (4.3 average), but quarterback Christian Ponder was the top running threat, racking up five carries for 46 yards (9.2 average), including touchdowns of 6 and 8 yards on draws.
The Browns, though, sacked Ponder six times.
“When you’re able to stop the run, you earn the chance to pass rush,” Robertson said.
Peterson’s longest run Sunday went for 9 yards, and right defensive end Desmond Bryant credited the defensive backs for helping contain him. It was the first time Peterson failed to tally a run of more than 10 yards since Sept. 16, 2012, when he had a long rush of 6 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.
“A lot of DBs in the league don’t tackle, especially corners,” cornerback Buster Skrine said. “We walk into the game with a chip on our shoulder because we are a tackling secondary.”
The entire defense might have a chip on its shoulder if Taylor’s view of Peterson’s tweet is any indication. Stopping the run, after all, requires attitude.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.