ST. LOUIS - Adrian Peterson is redefining the phrase "runner's high." It's those who watch him run who become lightheaded.
Peterson is making oxygen debt a communal experience. When he runs, people on couches across Minnesota gasp for breath.
Sunday, Peterson found another way to share endorphins, this time rushing for 212 yards and a touchdown to beat a St. Louis Rams team dedicated to stopping him, leading the Vikings to a 36-22 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.
It didn't matter that the Rams lined up with five defensive linemen to start the game. Or that his first seven carries netted zero yards. Or that handing the ball to Peterson is as predictable a strategy as running attack ads during an election.
With his latest improbable outburst, Peterson reached a personal-best 1,812 yards for the season, leaving him 293 shy of Eric Dickerson's NFL record of 2,105 with two games remaining. Considering he's averaged 164 yards a game for the past eight weeks, Peterson could downshift into history.
"He's going to get the record," rookie left tackle Matt Kalil said. ''But what I know is that what he really cares about is winning games."
The two pursuits aren't mutually exclusive on a Vikings team that again averaged more yards when handing the ball to Peterson (8.2) than when Christian Ponder attempted a pass (5.5).
St. Louis hadn't allowed a back to rush for more than 65 yards in its previous four games. Peterson beat that total with his second-quarter 82-yard touchdown run.
Center John Sullivan asked for Peterson's total, then nodded. "We're getting close,'' he said. "And we got the win, which was the most important part.
"We knew coming in that St. Louis was a really, really good defense. They're chippy. That have that mentality that the Titans used to have. They're going to trash talk, they're going to get in some extra shots after the whistle. There's some unpredictability there, so we were going to have some plays for zero and minus-1. We say feast or famine. So we found that big run, and that was the feast."
After five of his first seven carries went for losses, Peterson became a glutton. His eighth carry went for 8 yards. His ninth went for 82. His last 17 carries of the day went for 212.
On his 82-yarder, the Rams dropped back to cover the pass and fullback Jerome Felton obliterated Wayzata's own James Laurinaitis, the Rams' standout linebacker.
"My fullback, Felton, is playing outstanding," Peterson said. "That first touchdown, that was a brutal block he laid on 55."
Peterson's most important run didn't take him to the end zone, but it kept the Vikings in the playoff race. The Rams had closed to 33-22 midway through the fourth quarter. The Vikings took over at their 20.
Peterson took a handoff left and found nothing but blue jerseys. He reversed field, shrugged off a tackle in the backfield and burst through the right side for 52 yards. It was his last carry of the game. It led to a field goal and locker room filled with hope.
"That play was insane,'' Sullivan said. "Just insane. Our running game is in a special place right now."
Peterson said he could have "run for 300" yards, and admitted he has eyed Dickerson's record. He called the former Ram, "Such a great back, and a guy I looked up to, and who inspired me to work toward greatness. To surpass him would definitely be great. It's been there since, what, '84? I was born a year later, and that's when I started my journey to get here."
A half-hour after the game, St. Louis finally stopped Peterson. First, a boy asking for an autograph interrupted his trek to the team bus, then a host of others came forward for signatures or handshakes, and soon Peterson found himself amid 15 military people in fatigues, posing for photos.
You've got to swarm him to slow him down and, as the Rams learned, sometimes even that doesn't work. "Even if you know what's coming, you can't stop it,'' Kalil said. "At this point, nobody's going to stop him.''
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org