TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Monte Kiffin is not one to throw around a bunch of superlatives when he talks about a young football player.
Ask him about Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, though, and the architect of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense is tempted to let go.
``He's big, he's fast, he's powerful, he's can stop on a dime, he's quick, he loves football, he plays hard,'' Kiffin said before pausing to take a breath. ``If you hear anything bad about this guy that he can't do, let me know. I can't find anything on tape. He's a premier back.''
Kiffin and his proud defense get their first close look at the NFL's leading rusher when the Bucs (6-3) host the Vikings (5-4) on Sunday, with Peterson aiming for his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
on progresses.
``I never (talk up) backs ... out of respect for your Walter Paytons, your Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smiths of the world, and people like that. But he has the potential,'' Kiffin said. ``In a year and a half, you can tell he's a special guy. There's no doubt about it.''
The Bucs are impressed as a team, too.
From offensive lineman Davin Joseph, who blocked for Peterson at Oklahoma, to linebacker Barrett Ruud and cornerback Aquib Talib, who played against the running back in college, to veterans Derrick Brooks and Chris Hovan, who've studied film, the sentiment is the same.
Not that they're conceding anything Sunday.
``He's done a lot in two years. But again, this is our first time seeing him,'' Brooks said. ``We're going to give him his respect. But at the same time, we're going to give ourselves a little credit, too. We have a job to do, and we're going to do our best to go out there and do our job.''
Tampa Bay's defense has been among the best in the NFL for much of Kiffin's 13-season tenure with the Bucs. The unit has limited opponents to 3.8 yards per carry this year and hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher until Kansas City's Jamaal Charles topped the mark two weeks ago.
After stewing over the sub-par outing during last week's bye, the Bucs D has a chance to redeem itself against one of the best.
ncredible competitor. He's going to fight you for a yard, physically fight you for every yard,'' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.
``It's not just on seven of the 27 carries. It's 27 carries, if that's how many times, he's got to be physically brought down. He's as physical a man as I've seen play the position.''
That said, Gruden expects the Bucs to respond to the challenge.
Tampa Bay held Atlanta's Michael Turner, Green Bay's Ryan Grant and Carolina's DeAngelo Williams in check during victories this season, and slowed Dallas' Marion Barber in a four-point loss to the Cowboys.
``We're confident in our defense. I'm not going to underestimate that we will be there. ... It's not like we haven't seen some great backs,'' Gruden said.
``We always want to be the best at what at what we do,'' Hovan added. ``But we know that to be the best you have to take down the best, and the best is coming here on Sunday.''
With Peterson surging over 1,000 yards for the season, the Vikings have won three of four to claim a share of first place with Chicago in the NFC North. A fifth consecutive 100-yard game would tie the franchise record set by Robert Smith in 2000.
``My body is holding up well. Actually, I feel like I am getting stronger, I am actually getting bigger,'' said Peterson, who's listed at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds.
weight as the season goes. It just comes with staying true to what I do, staying in the weight room, just having the mind-set that I am going in there to get extra reps and do extra squats and just keep my body fresh.''
Bigger, faster and stronger?
That's a frightening thought for opposing defenses, and even Peterson.
``I am scaring myself,'' he said. ``Normally you don't see too many guys putting on weight towards the end of the season, but I definitely see myself getting stronger and faster, and my game is picking up. So hey, it's a good thing for us.''
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