Last year when Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL many questioned whether he would ever return to form. The injury cut his season short and left him with under 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He was determined to get back on the field in 2012 but to actually be productive was something that most people laughed at the thought of.
In August when he was fully running without a brace I knew that he was going to be back to form eventually, but not this soon. What Peterson accomplished this season, given the time frame of his speedy recovery, is virtually unprecedented in NFL history. Despite missing Eric Dickerson’s record by just nine yards, he’s only the seventh running back in NFL history to reach the 2,000 yard mark. The comeback that Peterson made not only deserves comeback player of the year, but I would give him MVP honors as well.
When you look at the way that the Minnesota Vikings are built they aren’t a passing team. Outside of Percy Harvin, who hasn’t played since week nine, they have no receiving threats that scare opponents. Still every week Peterson faces eight man boxes and leads his team to victories. He carried the Vikings into the playoffs this year and the way that his game has evolved since he entered the league is scary.
When he came out of college we knew that Peterson can run, but his game was far from complete. The injury made him focus on the little parts of his game and while he’s still far from perfect in pass blocking, he is light years from when he entered the league in 2007. Peterson also recorded the most receptions in his career with 40.
To me though what makes Peterson the best back that this league has ever seen is the combination of player he is. When he hits the hole he runs hard like Jim Brown and trucks defenders in his way. When he needs to get out of trouble he has a spin move that Walter Payton himself would admire. Most importantly when it looks like everything is bottled up he cuts back and explodes the way Barry Sanders did.
At Peterson’s current pace he would just need to average a measly 100 yards a game over the next six seasons to break Emmitt Smith’s rushing record. What would be most impressive about that is that he would accomplish the feat in 12 seasons, two less than Smith. Getting 1,600 yards a season is no easy task, but is that something I wouldn’t put passed Peterson.
In an era where the passing game has taken the league by storm there is nothing better then seeing a running back grind out yards and keep offenses off the field. It just feels right every time Peterson gets a hand off, like the way the game was meant to be played. It will only be a matter of times before we are telling our kids that we got to see the best running back in NFL history.