Packers linebacker on hot streak heading into playoffs
BY ROB DEMOVSKY Green Bay Press-Gazette
Saturday, January 05, 2013
1/05/13 at 6:24 AM
GREEN BAY, Wis. - To consider that B.J. Raji had one of his best games of the season last Sunday and was one of the best players on the field at the Metrodome seems preposterous.
How could he have, considering one of his jobs - perhaps his most important job - as the Green Bay Packers' starting nose tackle is to negate the opponent's running game? And what the Packers defense did against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was the opposite of negate. It enabled.
Peterson's numbers have been burned into everyone's brain.
But ask Peterson what he remembers about Sunday's game and after all those numbers, on his list was Raji doing his Dikembe Mutombo impersonation, wagging his finger side to side after he shoved Vikings left guard Charlie Johnson out of the way and dropped Peterson for a 2-yard loss late in the first quarter. It was one of five solo tackles, including two for a loss, by Raji in the game.
- The 199 yards he gained, which helped the Vikings to a 37-34 victory that set up Saturday's NFC wild-card rematch at Lambeau Field.
- The 409 combined rushing yards he gained in the two games against the Packers this season, which accounted for 19.5 percent of his near-record total.
- The 2,097 rushing yards he totaled during the regular season, which was 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season record.
It might be all 11 Packers defenders against Peterson, but at least one of the 11 came out on the winning end of the grading scale in an otherwise losing effort.
"He's an outstanding player, man," Peterson said of Raji. "A big guy, 320, 330 pounds. Short. Stubby. But strong as an ox and just extremely quick and athletic. You don't see big guys like that."
After a slow start to the season that included the ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 7 at Indianapolis that kept him out the next two weeks, Raji finished the season playing the best football of his career.
It resembled the way he played late in the 2010 season, when he was one of the dominating forces on defense during the playoff run and Super Bowl XLV victory. His play then helped him get the recognition he needed to make the Pro Bowl in 2011 even though he didn't perform as well as he did in 2010. Though he didn't make the Pro Bowl this season, his play the last half of the year was better, according to his coaches.
"B.J., the last few weeks has been playing his best football," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.
This week it's all about stopping Peterson, and it all starts with him. If Raji can have another strong showing up front, perhaps things will go differently than they have in the first two games against him.
Original Print Headline: Packers' Raji on hot streak