Wild Card Weekend three-and-out
- Article by: DAN WIEDERER
- Star Tribune
- January 2, 2013 - 10:45 PM
The NFL won't reveal this season's MVP until Super Bowl weekend. But Adrian Peterson certainly delivered his most convincing closing argument Sunday, rushing for 199 yards and scoring twice in a 37-34 victory over Green Bay. That launched the Vikings into the playoffs and confirmed Peterson is in a different universe right now. Much has been written about the running back's extraordinary 2012. But so long as the Vikings keep playing into 2013, we'll keep Peterson's storybook season in the spotlight. So here's an all-A.D. version of Three-and-Out:
1. The Packers still are searching for a way to slow Peterson.
Before Sunday's game, Peterson gathered his fellow running backs in the end zone at Mall of America Field and delivered an emotional pep talk, looking his teammates in the eyes and saying, "I promise you, I'll give you all I got."
Said fullback Jerome Felton: "When he said that, I looked him dead in his eyes and you could tell he was ready to roll."
And roll Peterson did. Thirty-four carries, 199 yards. A 7-yard touchdown run and a 2-yard TD catch.
In two games against the Packers, Peterson has rolled up 409 yards on 55 carries. That's the fourth-highest single-season rushing total a player ever has accumulated against a single opponent. Jamal Lewis is the record holder after he rushed for 500 yards in 2003 against Cleveland. Others on the list: O.J. Simpson (469 yards in 1973 vs. New England) and LaDainian Tomlinson (430 yards in 2003 against Oakland).
Peterson has five runs of at least 20 yards this season against Green Bay and hopes to continue that surge Saturday night.
2. Peterson has not only carried the Vikings with his production, but he's also apparently capable of mending his quarterback's psyche.
The last time the Vikings played at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2, they left with an unsettling 23-14 loss thanks in big part to Christian Ponder's two second-half, red-zone interceptions.
"We'll just be real," Peterson said Wednesday, "it was pretty obvious that the two interceptions cost us the game."
Yet, sensing Ponder felt crushed, Peterson was one of the first teammates to console the second-year quarterback after that loss.
"He looked defeated," Peterson said. "It definitely showed on his face. So I just did what I felt I needed to do to help him get over that. Because this is the guy that we're rolling with, and we needed him to continue to improve each week."
Peterson reminded Ponder that he had all the tools to be successful and, most notably, commended the young quarterback on the obvious passion and competitive fire he was playing with. Ponder said that positive reinforcement was a big deal. As Peterson hoped it could be.
"You can win with that, when someone is playing with those characteristics," Peterson said. "I feel like he got back on track, got his mind right, didn't dwell on it too long."
3. Here are a few more remarkable measurements of Peterson's mind-blowing regular season:
If you took only his longest three runs from each of the Vikings' 16 games, Peterson would have totaled 1,226 yards. On just those 48 rushes. Which, even if he hadn't carried the ball those other 300 times, he would have ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing.
As for Peterson's month of December? He rushed for 861 yards. Take out his 11 games from September, October and November and that yardage total would have ranked 18th in the NFL.
No wonder, after Peterson rushed 34 times Sunday, safety Jamarca Sanford felt obligated to deliver the most impressive carry of the day, jubilantly lifting Peterson up and running with him to the sideline.
"That adrenaline was pumping," Sanford said. "Adrian deserved that. I wanted him to know our appreciation."
Sanford shakes his head.
"This is a legend right in front of your eyes," he said. "I've heard of the great backs of all time -- Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, all the greats. To see one with my own eyes is special.
"When A.D. is running, he's just different. He plays like a guy on defense. He's always loose. And if you hit him hard one time, you have to come back and do it again the whole game. Some backs, you hit them in the mouth one time, they start tiptoeing. Not Adrian. He just keeps coming."
© 2013 Star Tribune