Two of the NFL‘s premiere running backs–Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings–are set to showcase their skills Sunday in St. Louis as their respective teams attempt to continue pushing towards an NFC wild card berth and a trip to the playoffs.
Just as both the Rams and Vikings are pursuing the same trip to the postseason party, Jackson and Peterson are pursuing the same ball carrier, Hall of Fame inductee Eric Dickerson.
Jackson — who is already the Rams all-time leading rusher — needs just 164 yards to surpass Dickerson’s seven consecutive 1,000 yard campaigns and join just five others with at least eight straight 1,000 yard years: Emmitt Smith (11), Barry Sanders (10), Curtis Martin (10), Thurman Thomas (8) and LaDainian Tomlinson (8).
“Nine years ago when I came in here, I was always taught to be consistent and to be dependable,” Jackson asserted this week. “That’s what I’ve tried to be my whole entire career. For me to put myself in this position to be able to hit these milestones, it says that I’ve done just that. I share these accomplishments not only with myself, but the guys that are in the locker room, the guys that I played with in the past. Everyone’s contributed to my success.”
As for Peterson, he is chasing Eric the Great’s 1984 single season rushing record of 2,105. With three games remaining, AP needs just 506 yards to dethrone Dickerson. Dickerson, however, does not want to see his feat surpassed by Peterson, as Mike Freeman of CBS Sports reported.
“I don’t want him to break it,” Dickerson asserted. “I’ll be honest. I don’t want to see it. If anyone ever broke it, and if my son played football, I’d want my son to break it. But that’s it. No one else.”
Peterson, of course, has different feelings than Dickerson in regard to the opportunity to run past the record.
“Man, it would be … I don’t know. It would mean a lot.” Peterson explained. “I can tell you that because that’s a landmark. It’s been there for a long time and as a running back, you definitely want to break all the records. That’s how I look at it. It would mean a lot to me, but first things first: I’d rather get in the playoffs first than break any records. It feels good to be in a position to even go after it.”
If Peterson is to become the game’s all-time single season rushing leader he will need to improve upon his current average of 123 yards per game. With just three games remaining, AD needs to average 169 yards to break the nearly two decade long standard for single season rushing success.
As both backs chase historic marks, each will be watching the other with respect and admiration.
“I think he plays the game the way it should be played,” Jackson said of Peterson. “He has breakaway speed, he breaks tackles and he plays each and every down like it’s his last.”
As for Peterson, he shared similar sentiments of praise for Jackson.
“Steven Jackson, I love that guy, just what he brings to the game,” Peterson expressed. “He’s a big back, tall – 6-3, I don’t know he might be 6-4 – 260 pounds and to be able to run the way he does. He’s got good speed, got incredible feet, great vision. He’s a guy before I got in the league that I used to love watching, watching him play. It’s going to be fun to share the field with him this week.”
Although I expect Jackson to attain 164 yards before the end of the season, I do not expect him to get it all on Sunday against a Minnesota defense that is allowing just 115 rushing yards a game.
As for Peterson, it will take a trio of prolific performances to catch Dickerson by season’s end.
With that said, don’t expect either of the aforementioned players to run down the former Rams and Colts star Sunday beneath the Gateway Arch, but I do anticipate big games from both backs — just as Jackson does.
“We both are very accomplished in our own right and I’m sure that we will both raise each other’s level of play on Sunday.”
Shane Gray has been a fully credentialed NFL media member with the St. Louis Rams and has worked alongside the likes of Jim Thomas, Bryan Burwell, Jason La Canfora, Mike Sando, John Clayton, D’Marco Farr and others. Gray has been a Rams featured columnist at previous stops and is currently one of the most widely read Rams columnists in the world.