- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- He tried to single one man out, before giving up. London Fletcher couldn’t do it. When it came to naming the best running back he’s faced in the NFL, he settled on three -- one of whom he’ll face Thursday night.
Fletcher’s choices: Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson.
“It’s really flip a coin,” Fletcher said.
But there are some things Peterson does that the others could not do. And, Fletcher said, the reason Faulk and Tomlinson are on the list along with Peterson is because of their work on third downs. Both excelled in that area.
Fletcher has played four games against Peterson in his career, all with the Redskins. Peterson has never rushed for more than 79 yards against Washington. In fact, teammate Toby Gerhart has more rushing yards in three games (186) against Washington than Peterson has in four (180). And Peterson’s longest run versus Washington? Thirty two yards; in the three other games his longest carry was 18 yards.
But he has left an impression. The way Fletcher talks, it’s as if Peterson is the best runner he’s faced during his 16 seasons, just not as complete as Faulk, the ex-St. Louis Ram and Indianapolis Colt, and Tomlinson, the ex-San Diego Charger and New York Jet.
“When you look at the power part and speed part and being able to cut on a dime, I can’t think of a back with all those different attributes,” Fletcher said of Peterson. “Marshall … had the speed and he had the cuts, but he didn’t have the power, although he did run hard it was a different type than Adrian. When [Peterson] takes on contact he breaks a lot of tackles with just sheer effort, there’s almost violence in the way he runs.”
Peterson isn’t on pace (yet) to match his 2012 output of 2,097 yards rushing. But with 711 yards he’s still on his way to yet another good season. Fletcher could be facing him for the final time as the teams aren’t scheduled to play next season, and it’s uncertain if Fletcher will play beyond this season.
But Fletcher knows what must happen Thursday: swarm Peterson. Or else.
“It’s 11 guys knowing what they need to do,” Fletcher said. “Sometimes that’s the difference in stopping a running back.”