Adrian Peterson is having another improbably breathtaking season, leading the NFL in rushing at age 30. At a time when running backs are supposed to be hitting a wall, he keeps running through people. And a guy I thought the Vikings would dump this past season as much for his mileage as his baggage continues to prove so many of us wrong.
The last time he had a true “prove it” season, of course, it was much the same thing. In 2012, coming off a gruesome knee injury, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, willed the Vikings into the playoffs and won the league MVP award. What’s interesting is that Peterson isn’t too far off his 2012 pace this season. But before we start wondering if he could outdo himself — and get those nine extra yards to run past Eric Dickerson for the single-season rushing record — let’s take a closer look at his current pace and what transpired in 2012:
*Through 11 games in 2012, Peterson had rushed 213 times for 1,236 yards. That’s a per game average of 112 yards and a per carry average of 5.8 yards. This year, he’s rushed 237 times for 1,164 yards. That’s a per-game average of 106 yards and a per carry average of 4.9 yards. So he hasn’t been as explosive. And he’s still a little bit behind his 2012 pace. But yes, he’s certainly within striking distance. However …
*In 2012, over his final five regular season games, Peterson rushed for a total of 861 yards. That’s a per-game average of 172, which is astonishing. To finish with 2,097 yards this season, as he did in 2012, Peterson would need to average 186.6 yards per game over his final five. To put that into perspective, Peterson only has eight games in his entire career in which he has rushed for at least 186 yards. Three of them came in the final five games of the 2012 season.
So yes, Peterson is within shouting distance of his 2012 pace through 11 games. But his final five games that season were at a pace basically consistent with his all-time greatest individual games.
Then again: I’m officially done doubting what Peterson is capable of on the football field, so you never know. Just as he did in 2012, he seems to be getting better as this 2015 season goes along.