Peterson and former Packers running back Ryan Grant both have rushed for 100 yards three times against Smith-coached Bears teams, more than any other backs. But seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs says it's more what the Bears defense does — or fails to do — than the back as the team prepares to face the Texans' Arian Foster for the first time Sunday night at Soldier Field.
Foster has 19 100-yard games since the start of the '10 season, most in the NFL and four more than the Titans' Chris Johnson and the Falcons' Michael Turner, next on the list. Johnson rushed for 141 yards last week in the Bears' 51-20 victory with 80 coming on one touchdown when the game was well out of hand, a run that dropped the Bears to sixth in the NFL against the run giving up an average of 88 yards per game.
"I don't think it is the back," Briggs said. "It is more we're having a bad day — if we're undisciplined or we're not doing the things we need to do. Everything that we see on film, even last week when Chris Johnson ended up getting 141 yards, was correctable."
Peterson rushed for 224 yards in his first game against the Bears in 2007 and topped 100 yards in three of the first four meetings. They have held him below 100 yards in the last four meetings and Peterson has had only one carry longer than 15 yards — a 20-yard rush. Few would say there is a better pure running back and the Bears will see him twice in the next five games.
But the focus now is Foster, who enters fifth in the league with 770 yards and has scored an NFL-best 11 touchdowns (10 rushing). But he's averaging only 4.0 yards per carry.
Corralling Foster is essential because the Texans passing game is predicated on play action. They run the ball so effectively that play action can give quarterback Matt Schaub easy shots deep downfield. But Foster knows it will be tough sledding against a Bears defense that has allowed only five 100-yard rushers since Rod Marinelli was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2010.
"It's going to be tough to get the ball moving on the ground with those guys," Foster said. "They have been playing together for so long and very big. Everyone can be effective from the safeties coming down in the run game to all three of the linebackers being very good in the run defense."
Grant had big days against the Bears, and his bread and butter was a weak lead. He would pick a hole on the back side where a defender had vacated in over-pursuing to the ball and shoot through it. That is what Briggs means when he talks about being undisciplined.
The Bears play a gap-control defense and when everyone fills his assignment, a runner has no place to go. But they are so fast up front and pursue to the ball so hard that sometimes cutback lanes open up. When that happens, it's 10 or 15 yards before a safety must make a play in the open field.
The Texans have plenty of weak and strong leads in their playbook, and Foster's patience is what sets him apart. With coach Gary Kubiak coming from the Broncos, it's similar to what helped Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis have terrific seasons.
"He understands their running game, their running style," Briggs said. "It fits him well. He knows when to make the right cuts. He gets upfield and gets a lot of positive yardage. He has been doing it for a while and he has been one of the top backs. He's that way for a reason."
Marinelli says the Texans like to start running outside zone plays to stretch a defense and widen lanes then hit leads, attacking the middle of the defense.
"They just know how to run the whole thing," Marinelli said.
His group just has to continue doing a pretty good job of stopping it all.