In the early 1970’s medical articles were rife with the assertion that the torn ACL was ‘the most common cause of the ex-athlete’ - Sunday 30th December 2012, exactly 365 days following reconstructive ACL surgery using grafts, Adrian Peterson has emphatically disproved the notion by becoming only the 7th player in NFL history to break the 2,000 yard rushing barrier.
With 199 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota’s 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field, Peterson concluded the regular season by falling an agonising 9 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s 28 year old single season record - all the more agonising when adorning a number bearing such powerful association.
Regardless, the failure to break Dickerson’s incredible record represents a mere blip on a horizon that was once particularly bleak, but now represents a world of possibilities, beginning at Lambeau Field this Sunday.
However, somewhat understandably, there was an evident lamanture about the tone of Peterson’s voice when pressed on the subject “It’s a bittersweet feeling” he said. “My first thing that came to mind when I realized I was 9 yards short was, it is what it is. It wasn’t meant to happen, or it would have happened”.
“Not to say it doesn’t hurt, because it does, but ultimately we came in here and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting the win and punching our ticket to the playoffs”.
Peterson continued “I’m sure Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now. But god willing, I’ll get it next year and not make it close” - Given how emphatically the man dubbed ‘The Purple Jesus’ has risen from the footballing canvas, you’d be foolish to think otherwise.
The usual suspects in Brady and Manning (despite the later, like Peterson, having to overcome the considerable obstacle of injury) are always at the forefront of discussions concerning league M.V.P, but for me, there is only one winner - Adrian ‘All Day’ Peterson.
It’s often said that teams live and die by the Quarterback position, but the lack of a credible running game can be equally detrimental to a team’s prospects, and the utterly imperious nature of Peterson’s performances both upon entry to the league, and during the recent campaign allow the Vikings real offensive potency despite an average Quarterback in Christian Ponder (18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a Quarterback rating of 81.2), thus only emphasizing his value; especially in a division containing a Quarterback who many believe to be the best in the game in Aaron Rodgers.
When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Peterson said, in typically honest fashion “I’m not saying I don’t want to win it, just like I wanted to break the record, but either way, in my heart, I’m the M.V.P. And that’s all that matters”.
Peterson’s final run on Sunday may have gone for 26 yards and left him shy of the all-time record, but in the grand scheme of things it pales in significance to a first playoff appearance since 2009, (when a 12 - 4 Vikings team came within a Brett Favre interception of reaching the Superbowl), courtesy of Blair Walsh’s 29 yard field goal.
Minnesota and Green Bay will face off once again 1 o’clock Sunday morning, UK time.
With the Chicago Bears beating the Lions in Detroit, the equation was simple for the men in purple - win and you’re in. As for Green Bay, they had to win to ensure the number two seed and that all important first round bye, an ever greater necessity with Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers taking care of the woeful Cardinals.
Vikings Quarterback Ponder, producing arguably his most assured performance (16 of 28 for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions) of the season, was composure personified, none more so when fashioning what appeared to be an ill - advised 25 yarder to Michael Jenkins on third-and-11 to keep the game winning drive alive.
Ponder looked the complete opposite of the skittish figure he so often came to represent for most of 2012, but even when the injudicious decision making that had come to define his early season form, reared its head in the form of a pop fly to centre field while under pressure, the ball still found its target in the form of receiver Jarius Wright.
His opposite number was typically efficient, as Rodgers himself produced a flawless display, throwing for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns, and one suspects that with a Quarterback that’s produced 39 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions, and boasts an overall rating of 108.0, Peterson despite bearing wearing the number associated with a record he failed to break, has every chance, if he maintains his current form (2, 097 yards, 12 touchdowns), of breaking something more significant - a Green Bay defense that could, if taken care of, be just another stepping stone to a full blown Viking invasion that could march all the way into New Orleans come February 3rd.
This may come to represent nothing more than blind optimism, but in the increasingly unpredictable world of the NFL, you should always expect the unexpected, and if the outstanding candidate for league M.V.P continues to roll, he may wind up having to find a much larger space for another trophy in the cabinet - the Lombardi Trophy…
Minnesota Vikings (10 - 6) @ Green Bay Packers (11 - 5) – Sky Sports 1/1HD, Sunday 6th
January, 1:00 A.M.
image: © xoque