Vikings take on unsettled Browns at home opener

9:28 AM, Sep 22, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Adrian Peterson's last game against the Browns produced one of the most breathtaking runs of his brilliant career.

This time, the Vikings will find a better front seven trying to stop him.

Two games is a small sample size, but the Browns have allowed a league-low 2.02 yards per rushing attempt. That hasn't been enough to trump a broken-down offense, but this is a stronger group led by Desmond Bryant, D'Qwell Jackson, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard. Rookie Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in the draft, is a budding star.

With opponents constantly stacked up against the line of scrimmage focusing on him rather than the unproven passing attack, Peterson can probably expect more of the same tough yards on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota's home opener.

The long gains looked easy in 2009, though, when Peterson rushed 25 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns in Cleveland during Brett Favre's debut in purple. The Browns gave up the fifth-most yards rushing in the NFL that year, 64 of which came on a memorable fourth-quarter carry by Peterson.

On the verge of being forced out of bounds after sprinting into the secondary, Peterson paused to use his right arm to grab Browns cornerback Eric Wright by the shoulder and toss him to the turf. Then he restarted his run, accelerated fast enough to escape the next wave of defenders and raced into the end zone.

Peterson is third in the league with 193 yards rushing, but since a 78-yard touchdown on the first snap of the season he hasn't found much room. Coach Leslie Frazier went so far as to describe him as tentative in last week's loss to the Bears, and Peterson didn't disagree.

"Even though I didn't realize it when I was out there," he said, "I could see on film that I was trying to do too much instead of taking what the defense gave me."

Here are five things to know about Sunday's game between the Browns and Vikings, two of the eight winless teams left in the league:

BACKFIELD SHAKEUP: With Brandon Weeden out because of a sprained right thumb, the Browns picked third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer over backup Jason Campbell, who has 71 career starts to Hoyer's one, which came in the last game of 2012 for Arizona.

The Browns have one touchdown and 16 points so far.

"We hope he's a spark for the offense," left tackle Joe Thomas said.

Hoyer won't be the only newbie behind the line. The Browns stunningly traded Trent Richardson, the third pick in last year's draft, to Indianapolis. Two-time Pro Bowl pick Willis McGahee, who's 31, was hastily signed on Thursday. The only true running back on the roster is Bobby Rainey, whose next carry will be his first in the NFL.

GORDON, IN A FLASH: That ailing offense will get a boost with the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who served a two-game suspension for failing a drug test.

Last year, Gordon was third among NFL rookies with 805 yards receiving, and all five of his touchdown catches measured 20-plus yards. He'll start alongside Davone Bess, with Greg Little moved to a reserve role.

"He's not going to be the savior ... but it will help getting a guy that's been able to make plays on the field," coach Rob Chudzinski said.

THE LAST TIME: The Vikings are 0-2 for the fifth time in nine seasons, but there's precedent for a recovery. In 2008, they rallied to finish 10-6 and win the NFC North. Miami and San Diego also made the playoffs that year, the last teams to do so after an 0-2 start.

WHAT'S THE RUSH? The Vikings have only one sack this season, though it was a productive one by defensive end Jared Allen. It forced a fumble by Jay Cutler in Chicago that Brian Robison returned 61 yards for a touchdown.

Allen will be across from Thomas but with the advantage of a noisy crowd behind him. The Browns have allowed 11 sacks, tied for the most in the league.

"Where you're going up against a fellow Pro Bowler ... I'm excited to see who's going to win on each given play," Allen said.

PERFECT PLACEMENT: Neither kicker has missed yet. Billy Cundiff has made three field goals and an extra point for the Browns, and Blair Walsh has converted four and six, respectively. Walsh, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, is 11 for 11 to start his career from 50 or more yards.

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