Panting as he spoke to Fox’s Pam Oliver, Adrian Peterson had just run the Vikings into the playoffs in a 37-34 victory over the Packers in Week 17 of 2012. He had finished a remarkable regular season, one in which he would be named MVP, with 199 yards against Green Bay, putting him just 8 yards behind Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Oliver brought that up in their interview.
“Nine yards,” she said, referring to how many he needed to break it. “Boy, that’s got to hurt.”
“Nine yards, what? From breaking it?” Peterson responded. “Well, you know ultimately as long as we got the W.”
The Vikings got 10 of those in 2012 thanks in large part to Peterson’s historic 2,097-yard season. The most remarkable portion of that run was his final 10 games — 1,598 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. That yardage represented the most over a 10-game span in NFL history and was a pace for more than 2,500 over a full year. And Peterson did all this in his first season back from tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee in December of the previous season.
Peterson became the first running back to win MVP since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and he was also that year’s fantasy football MVP.
It was especially sweet for anyone who picked Peterson that year because, coming into the season, he wasn’t a sure thing. He was coming off the serious knee injury and was returning to play about nine months after suffering it. The uncertainty around just how Peterson would look once he started running again caused his fantasy draft value to dip into the second or third round that year.
However, those concerns went out the window in Week 1 when Peterson had 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. All the questions — would he still get most of the carries with a healthy Toby Gerhart there? Will he still run the same? All those were answered in Week 1.
It allowed everyone who drafted Peterson to give themselves a nice pat on the back and inflate their egos. Peterson carried those people into the playoffs that year thanks to his 10-game stretch, and given that he was most likely selected with a second- or third-round pick, the lucky drafter might have had a few other top picks producing at a high level to go along with him.
Of course, the most important time for fantasy owners is Weeks 14-16, the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Peterson delivered a 154-yard, two touchdown day against the Bears in a 21-14 Vikings win. He had two catches for 16 yards for a nice 29 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. The following week, when most leagues have their semifinals, Peterson went for 212 yards and a touchdown against the Rams — another 27.2 points.
However, the following week was the only blemish (relatively speaking) on Peterson’s late-season heroics. It likely left a few people short of fantasy glory — and it might have even cost Peterson his shot at Dickerson’s record.
The Vikings were in Houston squaring off against the 12-2 Texans. It actually turned out to be one of the most impressive wins of the season for the Vikings. They won 23-6 to keep their playoff hopes alive for that last-week showdown against the Packers, though Houston was able to keep Peterson from having an explosive day. He carried it 25 times for 86 yards, but he didn’t get into the end zone, and he caught only one pass for four yards. That’s nine fantasy points in standard leagues.
It’s easy to play the what-if game with a lot of Peterson’s statistics from that year to see how he could’ve passed Dickerson.
It still won’t take away the fact that it was one of the greatest single seasons any running back has had and set a standard for what future running backs may have to duplicate to win the MVP.