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Facing star back Peterson a tall task for Texans

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HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Texans can't help but be impressed by what Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is accomplishing this season.

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On Sunday when they face the Vikings, the Texans want to make sure they aren't on the wrong end of history. Peterson enters the game against Houston just 188 yards shy of becoming the seventh 2,000-yard rusher in NFL history.

``This year he's definitely the best,'' veteran Houston linebacker Bradie James said. ``I played against Ricky Williams in his heyday when he would just run over everybody. I played against the Bus (Jerome Bettis), the Bus was great in short yardage. I played against Mike Alstott. I played against all these guys, and what Adrian Peterson is doing right now, I hadn't seen it before.''

``We don't want to be on the end of his record setting,'' he continued. ``We've got to do our job and really not get caught up in all that.''

The Texans (12-2) need a win to secure both a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. To do that they'll have to slow Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher.

``It's going to be the biggest challenge we've had around here in a while,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.

The Texans' defense led by star defensive end J.J. Watt is fifth in the NFL in yards rushing allowed a game with 93.2 - and Peterson is averaging 129.4. But he's been even more dominant of late, averaging 162.4 yards over the last eight games with two 200-yard performances.

``Peterson is a great running back,'' Watt said. ``He's playing as good as anyone in the league right now.''

When asked how to slow Peterson down, Watt had a simple answer.

``Tackle him,'' he said with a chuckle. ``We just need to play sound defense and execute our assignments and we'll be just fine.''

That's certainly easier said than done, and Kubiak is a bit concerned because he thought his team didn't tackle very well in Sunday's 29-17 win over Colts. He said that he's putting extra emphasis on better tackling with Peterson coming to town.

He's also hoping the Texans adjust well to facing a run-first team after weeks of dealing with pass-happy offenses.

``The thing that's really difficult is we've been playing teams that are a lot different,'' Kubiak said. ``We've been playing teams that kind of spread us out, throw the ball. Now all of the sudden we've got to line up and tackle the best in football. So we've got our work cut out for us.''

It isn't just the defensive front that is concerned about Peterson. Houston's secondary knows the entire defense must be aware of what Peterson is doing at all times. Houston's defensive backs know the Vikings could hurt them through the air, but with a passing offense that ranks last in the league, they're much more worried about the running game.

``Obviously he can't score a touchdown without running past the back end, and we know the secondary is the last line of defense,'' cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. ``You have to be on top of your tackling game 100 percent this week.''

Houston's defense could get a boost this week by the return of linebacker Brooks Reed, who started the first 11 games for Houston before missing the last three with a groin injury. Kubiak said he returned to practice Wednesday and that he has a ``good shot'' of playing Sunday if he doesn't have any setbacks in practice this week.

NOTES: Houston RB Arian Foster gifted each of his offensive linemen with a Segway personal transporter on Wednesday. The lineman squealed with delight when they discovered their presents, and learned how to ride them with help from Foster, who has had one for a while. ``I can't do anything without them,'' Foster said of Houston's linemen. ``It was just my way of giving back to the big fellas.''

-----

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The Associated Press
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