Adrian Peterson (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY)
The hunt for Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record is within reach, as improbable as that seemed for Adrian Peterson 11 months (or even two months) ago. But Peterson’s eight-game stretch with 100 yards or more (1,313 total and two 200-yard games) has him in position.
Pretty soon we’re going to run out of superlatives to describe Adrian Peterson. Earlier this week, Peterson was asked if he had a goal of reaching 2,000 yards rushing, which would have required him to average 133 yards rushing in each of the final three games. Peterson said he was looking at the all-time record of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
Some within earshot of that comment smiled and raised their eyebrows because it would require Peterson to average 168 yards over his final three games. Even with his magnificent season, that seemed like an awfully tall order. However, with 212 more rushing yards Sunday, Peterson has the record in his sights and it’s looking a lot more legitimate than it did Sunday morning.
“When you want to be great, and in my mind I want to be the greatest to ever play, you can’t talk about it. You’ve got to go out and work in order to accomplish something like that,” Peterson said after Sunday’s win.
“(Dickerson’s record has) been in my sights. I’m not focusing on it. It’s in the back of my head that I definitely want to accomplish it. I look at today’s game and I could have had 300, but it wasn’t meant to happen. We got the W.”
Peterson became the 50th player to rush for 1,600 yards in a season last week against Chicago and it was clear he was going to vault past several of the other epic rushing seasons in NFL history, but few could have imagined he would start the day with the 50th-best single season rushing mark and finish it in 19th place.
Peterson extended his own team record with his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game, but that only tells part of the story. In those eight games, he has had rushing days of 153, 123, 182, 171, 108, 210, 154 and 212 yards – not just crossing the century mark but shattering it. Last week against the Chicago Bears, Peterson went over 100 yards in the first quarter. Sunday, he went over 100 yards with six minutes to play in the first half.
“He’s just an amazing athlete. Extremely hard worker, just everything that a coach could want in a superstar. He’s a leader,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “He practices the way he plays. He does things that you ask him to do. He’s a great athlete on top of that and a gentlemen in every sense of the word. He’s the rare superstar in so many ways. But to say what has created who he is, you’d probably have to thank his parents for the great genes and the way they raised him.”
The highlight packages will show the 82-yard touchdown Peterson had, but he also had runs of 10, 12, 13, 17 and 52 yards – the last of those being a run that should have been stopped for a loss that Peterson bounced to the outside and found a running lane. It also came at a time – with 7:48 remaining in the game and the Rams trailing 33-22 after scoring twice in the fourth quarter – when St. Louis was trying to get back in the game and the Vikings needed to stick a dagger in them.
“It’s hard not to hand it off and just sit there and watch and not carry out your fake. He’s unbelievable,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “At times when it’s all clustered up and it looks like he’s going to go down and all the sudden he just squirts out there. He’s unbelievable. He’s extremely fun to watch. It’s awesome that we’re not on the other side of that.”
Peterson’s recent streak over the last eight games has been nothing short of amazing. In those games, he has carried the ball 176 times for an eye-popping 1,313 yards (an unheard of 7.5-yard average) and nine touchdowns. In that span, he has averaged 164 yards and the numbers just keep getting more impressive – over his last three games, he has averaged 192 yards a game.
With his huge day, the numbers to reach the historic benchmarks look considerably more within his grasp. To reach 2,000 yards, he needs average 94 yards a game, and the Dickerson mark that has stood for almost 30 years is in jeopardy – A.P. needs to average 147 yards a game to reach what many believed was an untouchable record since the NFL has become a pass-first league. Instead, Peterson’s assault on the record remains in place and the light at the end of that improbable tunnel is getting closer with each game.
It’s getting harder to come up with the appropriate adjectives to describe the dream season Peterson is having after a nightmare start to 2012 – the one that started with him recuperating in a hospital bed after reconstructive knee surgery on Dec 30, 2011. Now, nobody is complaining. As long as Peterson keeps dazzling the football world, we’ll keep coming up with superlatives to try to put it into context.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.