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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore are running to daylight

Vikings-49ers matchup of unbeatens could be the highlight of Week 3

September 23, 2009|SAM FARMER

It didn't take long for the Minnesota Vikings to figure out Brett Favre's best play.

Walk up to the line. Take the snap. Hand it to Adrian Peterson.

After two weeks, Peterson leads all NFL rushers with 272 yards and four touchdowns, and has been the driving factor in Minnesota's 2-0 start.

Sunday, the showdown: The Vikings play host to the surprising San Francisco 49ers, also 2-0, who have the NFC's No. 2 rusher in Frank Gore. Against Seattle on Sunday, Gore rushed for 207 yards, with the two longest touchdown runs of his career, 79 and 80 yards.

That performance followed an opener against Arizona in which Gore rushed for 30 yards. Although the 49ers beat the Cardinals, Gore was so rattled that he called offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye at 2 a.m.

Raye later told reporters he had gotten similar calls over the course of his career from running backs Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin.

"All the great ones that I've had, they have so much pride in their performance," Raye said after the Seattle game. "They've had restless nights. Basically [Gore's] call was more of a reassurance that we are going the right direction."

*--* RUSH LEADERS Team Yards Avg. TD Fum. Adrian Peterson Vikings 272 6.8 4 1 Chris Johnson Titans 254 8.2 2 0 Frank Gore 49ers 237 6.2 3 1 Mike Bell Saints 229 5.1 1 1 Fred Jackson Bills 220 5.1 0 1 *--*

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Looking to clock him

Big Ben is a big target, but will the Cincinnati Bengals get their hands on him? They have sacked Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger only once in two years and were shut out in that category last season.

That said, Roethlisberger shouldn't get too comfortable. He has been sacked six times in two games and will be looking across the line at the league's early sack leader, Antwan Odom. In two games, Odom has seven sacks -- five of them in Sunday's victory at Green Bay.

*--* SACK LEADERS Team No. Antwan Odom Bengals 7 Elvis Dumervil Broncos 4 Greg Ellis Raiders 3 Lawrence Jackson Seahawks 3 *--*

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Clash of the Titans

Before they were the Jets, they were the New York Titans, so Sunday's matchup against Tennessee at the Meadowlands is actually the old Titans versus the new ones.

Judging by the early indications, though, these are anything but the same old Jets. Their top-ranked defense is playing amazingly well, last Sunday becoming the first team in three years to keep New England out of the end zone.

The 0-2 Titans, meanwhile, a team built around defense, are having significant problems on that side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. The coordinator changeover from Jim Schwartz to Chuck Cecil hasn't been as smooth as Tennessee would have hoped, and the Titans have given up 321 and 357 yards passing in consecutive weeks.

Warm up that arm, Mark Sanchez.

Comparing defensive ranks (in bold) of the Jets and Titans through two weeks:

DEFENSIVE RANKS

*--* JETS -- TITANS 1 241.0 Total yards 26 388.5 9 280.5 Pass yards 32 339.0 6 60.5 Run yards 2 49.5 *--*

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That old college try

Atlanta's Matt Ryan, a former Boston College standout, returns to his old stamping grounds Sunday when the Falcons play at New England. Back at the 2008 scouting combine, Ryan said he never got a chance to meet Tom Brady but looked forward to getting the chance. Now, Ryan has a realistic chance to beat him, particularly considering how well he and tight end Tony Gonzalez are clicking.

The Patriots, who were already faced with a major defensive overhaul, now are trying to adjust to life without outstanding linebacker Jerod Mayo, who's recovering from a knee injury. Still, their defense is ranked third after two games. Atlanta's defense is ranked 22nd and isn't likely to be as stout as that of the Jets, who last weekend held the Patriots to three field goals and gave up only 299 yards (83 on the ground) to Brady & Co.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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