EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Adrian Peterson never doubted himself during his recovery from major knee surgery. One game and 208 yards away from the single-season NFL rushing record, he isn’t going to start now.
Peterson, who leads the league with 1,898 rushing yards and is 207 away from tying Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105, believes the record will fall Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings (9-6) host the Green Bay Packers (11-4) with a playoff berth on the line.
“I feel like I have a good chance,” Peterson said Thursday. “I believe it. In order to accomplish it, you’ve got to believe it. Deep down inside, I feel like I will get it.”
Peterson’s remarkable comeback season from surgery on Dec. 30 to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee has him on the cusp of possibly breaking one of the most hallowed and longest-held major records in the NFL and also has Minnesota on the verge of the playoffs after finishing last season 3-13.
With one game left in the season, everything comes down to Sunday’s game against the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers. Win, and the Vikings will earn a playoff berth. Lose, and they will have to hope for losses by the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. Peterson needs 102 yards to become just the seventh player in NFL history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season, though he has his sights set on Dickerson, and a win.
“It’s definitely something I still want to accomplish,” Peterson said. “Ultimately, and the most important thing, is getting to the postseason and getting a ‘W.’ So, I’ll be satisfied with both, but definitely satisfied with the ‘W’ first.”
Needing 208 yards in one game to break a record would seem like a nearly impossible task for most NFL running backs, but not Peterson. Peterson, who called his running style “vicious” Thursday, has two 200-yard games already this season, including one against Green Bay in the earlier meeting.
Peterson ran 21 times for 210 yards against the Packers in a 23-14 loss at Lambeau Field.
“The guys up front just out-willed the guys in front of them,” Peterson said. “And I was just able to make some big plays when opportunities were presented to me. I missed some as well. It was just a good day.”
Peterson wants the record. His teammates want the record for him. But to a man, the Vikings say playoffs is the first priority on Sunday against Green Bay.
“The most important thing right now is winning this game and getting into the playoffs,” center John Sullivan said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to have a bunch of rushing yards. So, those things go hand-in-hand. It’s natural to want both.”
Peterson doesn’t believe his abdominal injury, which forced him out of last week’s game in the fourth quarter, will limit him at all against the Packers. He didn’t practiced Wednesday or Thursday this week, but didn’t seem concerned when speaking with reporters on Thursday.
Last week, Peterson finished with 25 carries and 86 yards, but Minnesota’s 23-6 win at Houston strengthened its playoff chances. With Peterson on the sideline, backup Toby Gerhart had eight carries for 31 yards and a touchdown.
“That was the factor; that was the reason I came out,” Peterson said of his abdomen. “I felt like it was best for Toby to go in at that point in time, on that play that he would give us a better opportunity to get in the end zone. I didn’t want to be selfish just because we were down by the end zone and go in there and not be able to go 100 percent. Toby did a good job of executing and finishing that drive.”
And if he doesn’t break the record, Peterson said he will be content with the season he’s put together. He feels he’s proven everything he can in his triumphant return.
“Already, yeah, without a doubt,” Peterson said of proving himself. “I don’t feel like I owe anyone anything. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. I look at things as, ‘If it’s meant to happen, it will happen.’ If not, then to me in my mind, it wasn’t mean to happen and God got other plans for me to accomplish my dream or whatever I set for myself at a later time. So, that makes it really easy on me.”