San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson set 13 NFL records last season. He won the rushing title and was league MVP. And on Sunday, he moved past Hall of Famer Jim Brown into fourth place for career rushing touchdowns with 107.
In other words, the dude isn't easily impressed.
But on Sunday, he was darn near in awe, as Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson romped to an NFL-record 296 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries (9.9-yard average) in a 35-17 victory at the Metrodome.
"Impressive, very impressive," said Tomlinson, whose career-high rushing mark is 243 yards. "I was just sitting over there on the sideline, and to just to have over 200 yards in the second half, you know, that's impressive. But I've never seen anything like it."
Peterson definitely was impressive. But the Chargers also experienced a perfect storm of setbacks that helped Peterson during his historic afternoon.
Let us count the ways:
The Chargers were without three key defensive starters by the time Peterson rounded right end for his 64-yard touchdown with 12 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, the team's fifth-leading tackler, was inactive because of a groin injury. Cornerback Quentin Jammer left in the first half because of a hamstring injury. And four plays before that touchdown, defensive end Luis Castillo left because of what appears to be serious knee and ankle injuries.
"Adrian is outstanding, but we thought we could handle him, and we did in the first half," said Chargers defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who held the same position with the Vikings in 2004-05. "What happened in the second half is Castillo got hurt. That really hurt us."
Before Castillo went down, Peterson had 49 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. With Castillo out, Peterson had 247 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. And the 64-yarder went right over the spot where Castillo would have lined up.
2) A stubborn offensive game plan.
Through three quarters, the Chargers ran the ball on 11 of 18 first downs. Those 11 runs netted 15 yards. Six times, Tomlinson was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
The Chargers' pig-headed game plan also ignored All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates. He didn't have a ball thrown to him until the 12-minute mark of the second quarter, and was invisible with one catch for 10 yards.
"Run the ball is what we do well, and stop the run is what they do well," said Tomlinson, who was stuffed for 40 yards on 16 carries (2.5). "So it was kind of our strength against their strength, and they were more physical than us. They just whipped us."
3) An inopportune penalty.
The Vikings were leading only 21-17 when Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made his only big play of the day, a 40-yard strike to receiver Chris Chambers. The ball was placed at the Vikings' 38-yard line, but receiver Vincent Jackson was penalized five yards for lining up illegally.
The Chargers ran three plays, punted, and the Vikings made it 28-17 on Peterson's 46-yard touchdown run one play later.
"The game kind of got away from us," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
It sure did. To the point that linebackers Shawne Merriman and Matt Wilhelm said it was "embarrassing" to give up a team-record 378 yards rushing, topping the previous mark of 328 at Denver in 1975.
"I don't want to watch 'SportsCenter' tonight, I know that," strong safety Clinton Hart said. "You just don't think it can happen, because it's never happened. Ever."
Unless the Vikings and Chargers meet in a Super Bowl, the next time L.T. (Tomlinson) meets A.D. (Peterson) will be 2011.
"[Peterson] has a bright future," Tomlinson said. "What happens is, as people start game-planning for you, you have to kind of take your game to a different level. He's going to learn that, and I don't think he's going to have any problems. He's off to a heck of a start. Probably one of the greatest starts of anybody by a running back."
Mark Craig firstname.lastname@example.org