It was Earl Warren who said, “I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records man’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.” There is a lot of truth to that, so let’s take note of one of the most remarkable sports stories of 2012: Adrian Peterson’s comeback. “All Day” came back this year from a catastrophic knee injury and made medical history, as well as sports history, by having his best year over. Before his injury a year ago, Adrian already was the best running back in the NFL. It is astonishing that when he returned, he was actually better.
Peterson’s combination of power and speed is second to none, but what makes him unique is his aggressive attitude. Unlike most offensive skill players, Adrian considers himself to be the hunter, not the hunted. He looks for defensive backs to hit, and he can keep it up all day long. Eventually, many of them stop being enthusiastic about tackling him. This highlight video sums up Adrian’s performance this year, which turned out to be the second most productive of any running back, ever:
With Peterson leading the way, the Vikings bounced back from their three-win season last year to go 9-6 entering today’s game against arch-rival Green Bay, at the Metrodome. Going into today’s game, Adrian needed 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. In the first half, the Vikings and Peterson dominated, leaving the field with a ten point lead. But the Packers tightened up in the second half, and yards were hard to come by. With a little over two minutes to play, Green Bay tied the score at 34, giving the Vikings just enough time to make a last drive down the field.
Which they did, with a lot of help from Peterson. Following a 26-yard run by All Day, rookie sensation Blair Walsh kicked a chip shot field goal–which he almost missed–to give the Vikes a 37-34 victory.
In the end, Peterson had rushed for 199 yards, a phenomenal total, but nine yards short of what he needed to surpass Dickerson. Coming off the field at the end of the game, All Day was buttonholed by a sideline reporter who wanted to talk about his disappointment over falling nine yards short of the record. Only Adrian had no idea what she was talking about. He hadn’t been counting the yards, all he knew was that his team had won and was going to the playoffs. It was a nice moment and provided a good insight into what makes for a winning team, in any sport and at any level.
So the Vikings get to play the Packers one more time, in the first round of the NFL postseason. At Lambeau Field. The odds are against them, but no one doubts that the Vikings will have one edge: the best running back in football.