The records and are piling up quickly for Adrian Peterson. He was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week and named the Vikings Community Man of the Year. But the most memorable landmarks are still in front of Peterson, and within reach for him to accomplish over the next three weeks.
Whether it’s his gaudy average per carry, his incredible seven-game stretch in which he has outpaced other teams for the season, or the elite company he is joining, there is plenty to discuss with Peterson’s success of late.
The Minnesota Vikings running back needs to average 134 yards in his last three games to reach 2,000 yards. He already has 1,600, becoming only the 12th player in NFL history with multiple seasons of 1,600 yards rushing. You might have already known that.
You might also know that Peterson would need to average 168.4 yards over the next three games to break Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, a mark that has stood for 28 years (which happens to be Peterson’s jersey number for those into numerology).
Peterson is well aware he needs 505 yards over the next three games to break Dickerson’s record, and he doesn’t shy away from talk of it, just like he invites contact from a defender. He has seen Dickerson at events in Los Angeles but never had an opportunity for an extended, one-on-one talk with the current single-season record-holder. Still, there have been encouraging words between the two.
“I told him I have nothing but respect for him with the type of things he did when he played ball,” Peterson said. “I’m sure he would be happy for me (if the record falls), but deep downside inside it would hurt (Dickerson).”
It might seem far-fetched to believe that Peterson would average more than 168 yards over a three-game stretch, until you realize he has averaged 157.3 over the last seven games.
Can he get even better? Few have his drive to be the best.
“I comes down to willpower in the game of football. You’ve just got to outwill the guy in front of you,” he said.
Over the final three games, Peterson faces the St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers, and all three of those teams are in the top half of the NFL’s rankings for run defense. St. Louis has the 13th-ranked run defense, Houston is tied for second and Green Bay is 15th.
That might not matter to Peterson, however. Tampa Bay is ranked first in rush defense and Peterson had 123 yards on only 15 carries against the Buccaneers, an 8.2-yard average. Seattle is 10th against the run and Peterson had 182 yards against the Seahawks on 17 carries, a 10.7-yard average. And Peterson has already faced the Packers’ 15th-ranked defense and put up 210 yards on them at Lambeau Field, averaging a cool 10 yards per carry.
Only once in the last seven games has Peterson averaged less than 6 yards per carry – his 5.0-yard average on a career-high 31 carries last week against the Bears – and twice in that timeframe he has surpassed 10 yards a carry.
How impressive has Peterson’s seven-game stretch been? Try this statistic on for size.
Peterson has more rushing yards in the last seven games (1,101) than the Jacksonville Jaguars (1,068), Oakland Raiders (1,055), Dallas Cowboys (1,038) and Arizona Cardinals (1,021) have as a team … THE ENTIRE SEASON (yes, we’ve resorted to shouting in CAPS now).
In fact, Peterson is averaging more yards per rushing attempt (6.04) this season than Christian Ponder is averaging per pass attempt (5.99). That has only happened five times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, and only twice when the team’s leading player in yards per rushing attempt was a running back (Washington’s Reggie Brooks in 1993 and Buffalo’s O.J. Simpson in 1973).
“I haven’t really thought about which record means the most. Super Bowl, that’s what I want,” he said. “I feel like everything else will come with that. Just as a running back, yeah, you definitely want to break the single-season rushing mark as a running back and definitely the Emmitt Smith (all-time yardage) record that he’s holding – that’s something I want to reach. I want to be the best at everything, so those are landmarks I definitely want to reach one day.”
Peterson joins Simpson in another category as well – becoming only the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry in his team’s first 13 games. Simpson also did that in 1973 and Jim Brown was the original in doing so in 1963.
All of the records Peterson is approaching has him as one of the leaders for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. That has been awarded to running backs 16 times – including the first two times in 1957 and ’58 for Brown, but quarterbacks have predictably dominated the landscape over the years, winning it 37 times.
“It would mean a lot. I’ve worked to be the best to play,” Peterson said. “The quarterbacks kind of get a little leeway at times, but the MVP goes to the best player. You’ve got to be able to evaluate different situations and who’s been playing the best, not just narrowing it down to quarterbacks. That’s not right. If that’s the case, then you should make it a quarterback-only award.
“Give it to the best player.”
This year, that just might be Peterson.
Vikings owner Leonard Wilf will serve on the board of the NFL's new charitable organization, the National Football League Foundation.
Jeff Fisher is 1-4 against the Vikings, but Leslie Frazier hasn’t played the Rams as a head coach. The last time the two teams met, Adrian Peterson had two touchdown runs and Brett Favre threw a touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe.
Christian Ponder and Sam Bradford have relatively similar stats: Ponder is 251 of 401 for 2,396 yards, 14 TDs and 12 INTs for a 78.3 rating. Bradford is 255 of 427 for 2,877 yards, 15 TDs, 10 INTs and an 81.9 rating.
The running back department is, of course, dominated by the Vikings. Peterson has nearly everything on St. Louis’ Steven Jackson. Peterson has 1,600 yards, a 6.0 average and 10 touchdowns. Jackson has 836 yards, a 3.9 average and three touchdowns.
Christian Ponder has won seven of his last eight games played indoors.
The Bears worked out former Vikings receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, according to Scout.com’s Aaron Wilson.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.