Adrian Peterson didn’t break Eric Dickerson’s NFL record for rushing. He only fell nine yards short. All Peterson did was rush for 199 yards in leading the Vikings past the Packers 37-34 to make the playoffs. In a must win game, the amazing running back delivered a virtuoso performance that’ll be remembered by NFL fans. He needed 208 yards to break Dickerson’s single season record of 2,105 set in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.
It didn’t matter that he missed out on making NFL history. However, Peterson became the seventh player to go over 2,000 rushing yards for a season- finishing with 2,097. To do it in such a unique setting against a bitter rival with so much on the line is pretty special. The 27-year old former Minnesota ’07 number one pick (seventh overall) carried the ball a career high 34 times rushing for his 12th touchdown and making the final carry count. With his team needing more cushion to clinch the game before overtime, Peterson took that 34th carry and dashed for 27 yards, turning Minnesota into bedlam. It easily set up Georgia rookie Blair Walsh from 29 as time expired.
”I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that’s winning,” Peterson said amidst the possibility of breaking Dickerson’s 28-year old record. For him, just winning was enough because it helped the Vikings achieve a team goal of making the postseason. A pretty remarkable turnaround. Last year, they went 3-13 with Peterson missing the final four games due to a torn ACL and MCL that ended a frustrating ’11 season. Then, he comes back better than ever carrying the Vikings to an improbable 10-6 season and into the postseason.
”It wasn’t meant to happen, or it would’ve happened. Not to say it doesn’t hurt, because it does,” Peterson added. ”But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs.”
The game itself was easily the best of the final Sunday in the regular season. A bitter rivalry with the game having meaning for both teams. Green Bay was trying to wrap up the NFC’s No.2 seed and clinch a bye. Minnesota needed a win to make January. No surprise that against one of the league’s best in Aaron Rodgers that the teams combined for 71 points. The game included 849 total yards (GB-405 Min-444) of offense, eight touchdowns and five field goals.
The Vikings jumped in front 13-0 highlighted by a Peterson seven-yard score. They led 20-7 before the Packers got back in it. Mason Crosby hit a 51-yard field goal cutting it to 10 at halftime. Rodgers turned up the heat, driving the Packers to a touchdown drive out of the locker room. He connected with Greg Jennings for a five-yard score, cutting the deficit to 20-17. Minnesota showed plenty of mettle with Christian Ponder throwing for three touchdowns with two coming in direct response to Rodgers. In a big spot, the second-year QB out of Florida State stepped up- completing 16-of-28 for 234 yards and a 120.2 QB rating. That included a two-yard strike to Peterson to make it 27-17 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
However, Rodgers wasn’t done. He took the Packers down the field in less than two minutes, setting up James Jones from eight yards out. Another Crosby kick finally caught Green Bay up, making it 27-27 with 12 minutes to go. It only intensified. In his best game as a pro, Ponder again led Minnesota to a touchdown drive, hooking up with Michael Jenkins to restore a touchdown lead. But you knew Rodgers wasn’t done. On a day he completed 28-of-40 for 365 yards, he threw his fourth touchdown to Jordy Nelson with 2:54 remaining. Crosby’s PAT knotted it again 34-34.
”For our guys to be as resilient as they were, it has you swelling with pride,” coach Leslie Frazier praised of his team’s effort.
All the pressure was squarely on Minnesota. It was either win or risk overtime against a division rival set on ending their season. They didn’t blink. Ponder led them into Green Bay territory and Peterson did the rest, allowing another rookie in a year of rookies to kick them into the playoffs. When Walsh’s kick was good, it allowed the Vikings to celebrate a well deserved win. The playoffs have returned to the Purple People Eaters. One of the league’s classic franchises. Another improbable run no one saw coming. Even better, they’ll get to do it again against the Packers at Lambeau Field next week.
Peterson’s season for the ages should give them the edge in the league’s Most Valuable Player over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They’re all great players with the latter two legendary. Even with Peyton doing what he has with Denver, Peterson is your MVP. In the mean time, let’s enjoy one of the great runs that’s not over yet.