Two-point plays are unusual. Having a running back run it in even more so.
When the Vikings successfully went for two in Sunday's victory over the Lions, it caught our attention as ... odd. Not because they did it while up 12 in the fourth quarter, but because they did it by handing off to Adrian Peterson.
It was the first two-point conversion of Peterson's six-year pro career. That fact doesn't seem so unusual when you consider two-point tries aren't that common in the NFL. Counting the playoffs, the Vikings have only made six two-point conversions on 10 attempts over 246 touchdowns since his arrival, and one of the failures was actually a botched point-after kick credited as a run by Chris Kluwe.
But it's not just that the Vikings don't try many two-point conversions (36 all-time, about two per season). When they do, they seldom hand off the ball. Peterson's conversion was the first the Vikings rushed in since Dec. 30, 2007, in Denver, when Tarvaris Jackson ran in two in the fourth quarter to force overtime after the team trailed by 16.
That's actually a trend going back almost to the NFL's introduction of the two-point conversion in 1994. Vikings quarterbacks run them in far more often than running backs do.
Peterson's conversion was only the fifth ever run in by a Vikings running back, the first in the regular season since the late Charles Evans did it at Green Bay on Sept. 21, 1997. Leroy Hoard ran one in during a playoff game at St. Louis on Jan. 16, 2000 -- a score that pulled the Vikings within 49-25 in the fourth quarter. (The Vikings tried two more two-point conversions that game, both Jeff George passes; both failed.) Prior to Sunday, the last conversion scored by a running back was in the 2004 season finale at Washington, when Onterrio Smith caught a pass from Daunte Culpepper.
Meanwhile, Vikings QBs have run in conversions 10 times. Culpepper had four alone, including likely "the most famous two-point conversion in Vikings history." On Dec. 15, 2002, he fumbled the snap, picked it up and ran it in for a 32-31 victory at New Orleans that ended a 16-game road losing streak. That was a better result than Nov. 23, 1997, when, after the visiting Vikings scored a TD with no time left, Robert Smith was stuffed on the tying attempt for a 23-21 loss to the Jets.
Which is perhaps why running backs don't get more opportunities. Peterson's was a rare two-pointer tried with a lead, and teams desperate to rally might simply believe a pass is a better choice in a situation that equates to a fourth-and-2. Heck, even Sunday's run was out of the shotgun with three receivers, giving the impression of a pass.
Peterson figures to be remembered as one of the great backs of all time. But don't be surprised if Sunday's two-point conversion is the only one of his illustrious career.