MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson didn’t know how close he was to breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, even late in the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff-clinching 37-34 win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Turns out, Peterson didn’t really want to know and said he didn’t find out until FOX Sports reporter Pam Oliver told him after the game.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling inside,” Peterson said. “The first thing that came to my mind when I heard I was 9 yards short was, it is what it is. It wasn’t meant to happen or it would’ve happened. Not to say it doesn’t hurt, because it does. But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs.”
Peterson, with a career-high 34 carries for 199 yards in Sunday’s win, challenged Dickerson’s 28-year-old record like no one else. Peterson, putting an incredible cap on his remarkable return from knee surgery, finished with the second-highest single-season total in NFL history with 2,097 yards.
One year ago Sunday, Peterson had surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and damage to the meniscus in his left knee. Now he’s put together maybe the most amazing comeback season in NFL history, finishing Sunday’s game with two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.
He became just the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season with a 20-yard run on his first carry of the second half and nearly broke the record with his final carry. With Minnesota nursing the clock in field-goal range, Peterson broke off one last 26-yard run on his final carry, setting up rookie Pro Bowl kicker Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal to put the Vikings into the playoffs.
The Vikings earned the final wild card in the NFC and will face Green Bay again at Lambeau Field on Saturday in the first round.
“I never knew,” Peterson said of approaching the record. “I really wasn’t worried about it. I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that’s winning. That means doing your job in the run game and the pass game and if it happens, it will come to me. Don’t focus on it all and I wasn’t focused on it. I went out and played my game. We accomplished what we wanted to. We’re in now. The playoffs. We’re fighting another week.”
Peterson, who entered Sunday with a league-leading 1,898 yards, believed he could reach the record, even though he needed 208 yards. And we almost right, finishing just shy of his third 200-yard rushing game of the season.
Peterson, who led the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage, is a leading candidate for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and, of course, Comeback Player of the Year.
“He’s incredible,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP. “I just told him after the game he’s the best. He’s incredible to watch. Obviously you don’t like playing against him, but he’s had a great season… As a fellow player, you can’t help but watch him play and just be really impressed. He probably might have won the MVP today, and hopefully we can win the playoff game next week.”