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Why Adrian Peterson will likely struggle against Seahawks

When the Minnesota Vikings host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the NFC Wild Card Round, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will become just the sixth rushing champion since 1970 to take on the league’s No. 1 rushing defense in the postseason.

According to Chase Stuart of the Washington Post, history indicates Peterson—who led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,485 yards—will likely struggle to put up big numbers against the Seahawks top-ranked run defense.

All five of the previous rushing champions rushed for fewer than 100 yards, and three of the five failed to get over 50. The average for the five? Just 50.6 rushing yards. And only two of the five rushers scored a touchdown.

Here’s the list:

– Earl Campbell (1979, vs. Denver): 16 carries, 50 yards, TD
– Eric Dickerson (1983, vs. Washington): 10 carries, 16 yards
– Jamal Lewis (2003, vs. Tennessee): 14 carries, 35 yards
– Curtis Martin (2004, vs. Pittsburgh): 19 carries, 77 yards
– DeMarco Murray (2014, vs. Detroit): 19 carries, 75 yards, TD

Seattle held Peterson to just 18 yards on eight carries in the first meeting back in Week 13. The game marked his third-lowest rushing yards total in a single game over his 120-game NFL career.

The Seahawks’ plan against Peterson was a simple one.

“We just hit him. Every time he got the ball, we made sure somebody hit him,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said, via The Oregonian. “I think we’re just going to do our thing. We’re not going to mix it up. What worked is what has worked on just about everybody this year. We’re going to stick with what we do.”

Seattle allowed just 81.5 rushing yards per game and 3.6 yards per rush this season. No team was better stopping the run down the stretch, as the Seahawks gave up just 57 rushing yards per contest over the final seven games—including just 31 in Week 13 to Minnesota.

Can the Vikings win without big production on the ground? The numbers say it would be unlikely. Minnesota was a perfect 10-0 when rushing for over 120 yards in 2015, and just 1-5 otherwise. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were 9-1 when allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards.

Sunday’s Wild Card showdown between the Vikings and Seahawks will be won in the trenches when Minnesota has the football. If Seattle dominates that matchup again, expect history to repeat itself in terms of rushing champions against top-ranked run defenses in the playoffs. And also expect the Seahawks to comfortably advance to the next round.