Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is having a phenomenal 2012 season, with 1,812 yards through 14 games. That puts him within reach of the NFL’s single season rushing yardage record of 2,105, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984 when he played for the then-Los Angeles Rams.
Peterson is still less than a year from tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee, which makes his current performance all the more unreal along with the fact the Vikings had the league’s 32nd-ranked pass offense (168.1 yards per game) entering Week 15.
Peterson will have a challenging matchup upon returning to his home state in Week 16, as the Houston Texans are in the top five of the league against the run (93.2 yards per game) and have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (three) in the league. That will be followed by a Week 17 home game against the Green Bay Packers, who Peterson had 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against in Week 13.
So how good are Peterson’s chances of getting the 294 yards he needs to break Dickerson’s record? Let’s take a look at a game-by-game breakdown of Dickerson’s 1984 campaign, then Peterson’s run so far this season, in an attempt to get some clarity.
1- Dallas Cowboys– 21 carries for 138 yards, one touchdown
2- Cleveland Browns– 27 carries for 102 yards
3- Pittsburgh Steelers– 23 carries for 49 yards
4- Cincinnati Bengals– 22 carries for 89 yards
5- New York Giants– 22 carries for 120 yards
6- Atlanta Falcons– 19 carries for 107 yards, two touchdowns
7- New Orleans Saints– 20 carries for 175 yards
8- Atlanta Falcons- 24 carries for 145 yards, one touchdown
9- San Francisco 49ers– 13 carries for 38 yards
10- St. Louis Cardinals- 21 carries for 208 yards
11- Chicago Bears– 28 carries for 149 yards, two touchdowns
12- Green Bay Packers- 25 carries for 132 yards
13- Tampa Bay Buccaneers– 28 carries for 191 yards, three touchdowns
14- New Orleans Saints- 33 carries for 149 yards, one touchdown
15- Houston Oilers- 27 carries for 215 yards, two touchdowns
16- San Francisco 49ers- 26 carries for 98 yards, one touchdown
Totals- 379 carries for 2,105 yards and 14 touchdowns
Now let’s look at Peterson this season:
1- Jacksonville Jaguars– 17 carries for 84 yards, two touchdowns
2- Indianapolis Colts– 16 carries for 60 yards
3- San Francisco 49ers- 25 carries for 86 yards
4- Detroit Lions– 21 carries for 102 yards
5- Tennessee Titans– 17 carries for 88 yards
6- Washington Redskins– 17 carries for 79 yards
7- Arizona Cardinals– 23 carries for 153 yards, one touchdown
8- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 15 carries for 123 yards, one touchdown
9- Seattle Seahawks– 17 carries for 182 yards, two touchdowns
10- Detroit Lions- 27 carries for 171 yards, one touchdown
11- Chicago Bears- 18 carries for 108 yards
12- Green Bay Packers- 21 carries for 210 yards, one touchdown
13- Chicago Bears- 31 carries for 154 yards, two touchdowns
14- St. Louis Rams– 24 carries for 212 yards, one touchdown
Peterson’s Totals Through 14 Games- 289 carries for 1,812 yards, 11 touchdowns
Dickerson Through 14 Games In 1984- 326 carries for 1,792 yards, 11 touchdowns
So Peterson has more 20 yards on 37 fewer carries than Dickerson had at the same point in his record-setting campaign, and their touchdown totals through 14 games are the same.
Other Notable Observations
– Peterson only had one 100-yard rushing game in the first six games of the season, while Dickerson had four 100-yard games in his first six games in 1984.
– Peterson had just two games with 20-plus carries in his first six games this season, while Dickerson had five games with that many carries over his first six games and at least 19 carries in all six contests.
– Peterson’s two 200-yard rushing games this season matches Dickerson’s number of 200-yard games in 1984, though Dickerson’s second did not come until his 15th game.
-With a touchdown in Week 16 against Houston, Peterson will have a second streak of four consecutive games with a touchdown this season. Dickerson only did that once in 1984, in the final four games of the season.
– 1984 was just Dickerson’s second NFL season and his 379 carries, which would be excessive by today’s standards, is only the fourth-highest carry total he had during his 11-year career.
– Dickerson had a six-game stretch during his record-setting season where he averaged 174 rushing yards per game, including both of his 200-yard games and another game with over 190 yards.
– Dickerson’s 15th game in 1984 came against a Houston Oilers defense that finished last in the league against the run (174.3 yards per game) and allowed 27 rushing touchdowns (tied for most in the league) as well. The 49ers, his opponent in the regular season finale, finished that season seventh against the run (112.2 yards per game) and held Dickerson below 100 yards on the ground in both of their games against him.
Peterson has averaged just over 164 rushing yards per game over his last eight games, and he would need to average 147 yards per game over the final two games to set the new single-season rushing record. Facing tough opponents has not been a deterrent during that recent run, as five of those eight opponents (including two games against the Bears) are currently in the top half of the league against the run.
I like Peterson’s chances to surpass Dickerson, if only because his workload (76 carries over the last three games) will not go away over the final two weeks. Even with a tough matchup coming against the Texans, it would only take one long run of the kind that has become a staple in Peterson’s game recently to allow him to keep pace and have a realistic chance to set the new record in Week 17.