Peterson remaining focused while chasing Dickerson

The record many thought would never be broken is right there in
front of him, and Adrian Peterson can smell it.

His powerful legs have been chewing up the yards at a staggering
pace over these last two months, chasing down Eric Dickerson’s
single-season rushing mark with the relentlessness that helped him
come back from a devastating knee injury in less than nine
months.

As Peterson continues that pursuit, Minnesota Vikings coach
Leslie Frazier is comfortable in knowing that while the record is
important to his star running back, making the playoffs trumps
everything. Actually, the two may go hand in hand.

Heading into the final two games of the season, Peterson is 294
yards away from eclipsing Dickerson’s record 2,105 yards set in
1984 and the Vikings (8-6) almost surely need wins over Houston and
Green Bay to get into the playoffs.

With all that in mind, Frazier had a chat with Peterson on
Monday just to make sure that the focus remains where it needs to
be.

”The record would be great,” Frazier said the day after the
Vikings won in St. Louis to stay alive in the playoff race. ”But
the most important thing is to get a win in Houston. And the fact
that he feels that way, that will permeate through the rest of our
team. He wants to really concentrate on winning this game, more so
than the record.”

Peterson was unavailable for comment on Monday after racking up
212 yards and a touchdown in the 36-24 victory over the Rams, but
he said after the game that he knows how to prioritize the two
pursuits.

”It’s something that I’m not focusing on, it’s in the back of
my mind, but I want to accomplish that,” Peterson said of the
record. ”I want to let the chips fall where they may. I look at
today’s game, I could have had 300 (yards), but it wasn’t meant to
happen. We got the `W,’ we got closer. Let’s move on.”

To say that Peterson is ”only” 294 yards away from Dickerson’s
record with two games to go is remarkable in its own right. The
game has evolved from Dickerson’s day to a quarterback-centric
universe, one where running backs are lucky to get a dozen carries
in a game just to keep the defense off balance.

Perhaps that’s why Dickerson felt relatively comfortable that
his mark would stand. In five of Dickerson’s first six seasons, he
had at least 379 carries for the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis
Colts. Peterson’s career high for carries is 363 in 2008, and he
enters the game against the Texans with just 289 on the season.

”He’s a phenomenal player and seems like a good dude,”
Dickerson told CBSsports.com last week. ”If a player was to break
it, I’d probably want it to be Adrian, but I like having the
record. I don’t think it’s going to be broken.”

The Vikings are a throwback to the days when running backs
ruled. They rely on Peterson as their first, second and third
option to move the ball down the field, and he has delivered even
with opposing defenses crowding the line of scrimmage in an all-out
effort to stop him.

He’s topped 200 yards twice in the last three weeks, is
averaging more than 164 yards per game over the last eight and is
averaging more yards per carry (6.3) than Christian Ponder is per
pass attempt (5.95).

”Nobody probably has ever done it better than he’s doing it in
this stretch,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.

Even when an opposing defense appears to have him bottled up,
Peterson has found a way to break out. He had minus-3 yards on his
first five carries against the Rams, but ripped off an 82-yard
touchdown run and a 52-yard burst in the fourth quarter to put the
game on ice.

Through it all, he’s turned what had been a career-derailing
injury for a running back – a torn ACL in his left knee suffered
last December – into nothing more than a speed bump.

”It’s mental. My mindset, my willpower, my determination,”
Peterson said. ”And that’s something people don’t see, is how hard
I work during the offseason. I grind hard. When you want to be
great – and in my mind, I want to be the greatest that ever played
– you can’t talk about it, you have to go out and work.”

He’s carried this offense on his broad shoulders all season
long, and his teammates are hoping to return the favor by helping
him get the record.

”We obviously want him to get it, and he’s chugging along,”
Ponder said. ”He’s getting yards and I don’t think it’s something
we’re thinking about and trying to take advantage of. We do want to
make the playoffs and that’s our number one goal and (to) keep
winning. The way he’s playing, we hope he gets it. He’s getting
close.”

NOTES: Frazier said that WR Percy Harvin, who is on injured
reserve because of a sprained left ankle, had an appendectomy last
week. … DE Brian Robison has a sprained shoulder. Frazier said
he’s the only player who will be questionable for the Texans game
this week. …CB Chris Cook is eligible to come off injured reserve
this week. He hasn’t played since he broke his arm against Tampa
Bay on Oct. 25. Frazier said they would see how he responds in
practice this week and hope to play him on Sunday.

AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this
story.

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