MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson ran right past everyone this season. Past all those running backs before him who couldn’t make it to 2,000 yards in a season. Past every doubter who dared to think he wouldn’t make it back from a devastating knee injury.
Past everyone except Eric Dickerson.
Peterson became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, plowing through the Green Bay Packers for a 20-yard gain that put him over the top in the third quarter Sunday. He finished with 199 yards and a touchdown in the 37-34 victory, leaving him 9 yards shy of breaking Dickerson’s single-season record.
“Ultimately we got the ‘W,’ ” Peterson said after carrying the ball a career-high 34 times. “We said during the week, if it happens, it happens. Don’t focus on it.”
Peterson needed 208 yards when the day began to break Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. His 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up Blair Walsh’s winning field goal, a kick that clinched a playoff berth for the Vikings. He’ll have to settle for the second-best total – 2,097 yards – and a trip to Lambeau Field for a playoff rematch Saturday night.
“I know Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now,” Peterson said with a chuckle, referencing public comments from Dickerson a few weeks back saying he hoped Peterson didn’t break his record. “But God willing, I’ll get it next year.”
Even without the record, his remarkable comeback season now has a magic number to punctuate it.
Peterson came in 102 yards shy of joining O.J. Simpson, Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson in the 2,000-yard club. Peterson is the only one to do it after reconstructive knee surgery, and he did it on the one-year anniversary of his knee surgery.
“He is without question the best running back in our game and truly, in my mind, the MVP of our league,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We don’t win this game without Adrian Peterson.”
The Vikings punted a few plays after Peterson’s big run, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation when the achievement was announced. Peterson took it all in stride, waving politely, but otherwise not making anything special out of it in a game the Vikings needed to win to make the playoffs.
It was only last December when Peterson crumpled to the turf in Washington, two ligaments torn, leaving many to wonder if his career would ever be the same.
Well, it hasn’t been. Peterson vowed from the very beginning to return better than ever from an injury that has ended the careers of so many before him.
Peterson was back in the starting lineup opening day and scored two touchdowns in the opener, but didn’t top 100 yards in a game until Week 4, when he went for 102 against the Lions. As the season went on, the scar tissue in his knee started to break up and Peterson took off.
He went on a breathtaking eight-game run, amassing 1,313 yards and topping 200 yards twice in four games to vault into the MVP discussion.
“I don’t let awards identify me,” Peterson said. “I don’t do it. I go out and define myself by what I do on the field. Whether I win it or not, and I’m not saying I don’t want to, just like I wanted to break the record, either way, in my heart I’m the MVP. That’s all that matters.”