It is tough to find similarities when watching Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch run. Peterson is supposed to be about speed, and Lynch is all about power.
But Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen recognizes identical traits. So does Seattle coach Pete Carroll.
How they carry the ball doesn't provide a mirror image, but there is an underlying similarity. Minnesota's Peterson and Seattle's Lynch run with a passionate fierceness that leads to unquestionable production.
"There's a lot of similarities. In terms of how angry they run, how hard they run, how much tenacity, how much they finish the run, how much they are physical at the contact point," said Seattle's Darrell Bevell, who has coached both backs in his role as offensive coordinator for each team. "They'll both lower their shoulder and run you over, but if there's just one guy, they can shake them and make them miss."
Peterson and Lynch, the top two rushers in the NFL at the midpoint of the regular season, highlight Sunday's matchup between the Vikings and Seahawks that could have greater ramifications later in the year.
"He runs the ball tough. Fast, can make moves," Lynch said of Peterson. He can get out in open space and go to the house at any time. Just a complete back."
Lynch agreed there is one major similarity.
"Probably just as far as we're relentless," he said.
Minnesota (5-3) comes to Seattle smarting after a 19-point home loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 25 that included a few extra days of stewing about the poor performance that handed the Vikings a second loss in three games after a surprising 4-1 start. Meanwhile, the Seahawks (4-4) are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the middle of last season.
While neither team wants to look ahead, Sunday's winner could gain an important tiebreaker should Seattle and Minnesota hang around the edges of the NFC playoff chase.
"The guys realize we're starting the second half of the season, which to us is a big deal," Carroll said. "There's nothing we can do about the games that happened before, but there's a lot to do with what's coming up."
Peterson is proving he is fully recovered from the two torn knee ligaments he sustained late last season, and in a remarkably short time. At the midway point of the season, he is on pace for 1,550 yards, which would be the second-best season of his career and his first 1,000-yard season since 2010. He is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time this season, and if he can top the century mark against Seattle it would be the first time he has gone over 100 in three straight games since late in the 2008 season when he ran for a career-best 1,760 yards.
"It's been amazing just watching him perform," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. "There's no way I can tell that I would have predicted he'd be playing at such a high level at this stage of the season. Even in the first game of the season, for him to come back and play as well as he's played has been just amazing to all of us."
Lynch is on track for the best season of his career, potentially topping 1,500 yards. In last week's 28-24 loss to Detroit, Lynch got to show off that he's more than just a bullying runner when he sprinted untouched for a 77-yard touchdown — the longest scoring run of his career.
"I know his reputation has been he's really physical and all that, but if he wants to make you miss and beat you with speed he can do that," Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. "He doesn't prefer to do it, but he can do it if he chooses to."
But outside of the TD run, Lynch carried just 11 times for 28 yards against the Lions, part of a difficult last few weeks trying to get the running game going. Lynch rushed for 103 yards against San Francisco, but had just 41 yards against New England.
After Lynch carried the ball 112 times in the first five games, Seattle seems to be trying to lessen his workload by giving him only 46 carries the past three weeks.
"It's hard for us to take Marshawn out because we like him getting the football, but it's working out," Carroll said. "Hopefully the numbers will help us support longevity, at least a good stand through this season, and we'll see where it goes from there. I don't know if it's a lost art or anything, it's just there are very few guys that are this good. These guys are really, really top-notch pros."
Part of Lynch's decreased workload is the improved play of rookie QB Russell Wilson, who is coming off a career-high 25 completions last week against Detroit. After failing to throw for 200 yards in any of his first four games, he has reached the mark in three of the past four and has five touchdowns with only two interceptions in the past three games.
The Vikings are very familiar with the ups and downs of a rookie quarterback after starting Christian Ponder for 10 games last year. Ponder was outstanding for the first five games this season before struggling in the past two.
"Making those smart decisions and not taking unnecessary risks and sacks and stuff like that, his maturity as a young quarterback who is obviously going to be our franchise guy," Allen said. "He has continued to step up, and I think he's starting to take more of a leadership role and be more of the face of the offense and franchise."
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