Adrian Peterson Makes A Run At History (But Will It Matter?)
Minnesota Vikings running back extraordinaire Adrian Peterson continued his rush at history Sunday, ripping off 212 yards to power his team’s 36-22 destruction of the Rams in St. Louis.
Peterson’s effort was highlighted by an 82-yard touchdown jaunt that lifted the Vikings to a 14-7 second-quarter lead they would not relinquish.
Peterson has now carried the ball 289 times for 1,812 yards with 11 TD and a brilliant 6.34 YPA.
He’s essentially matched the greatest running back of all time in his greatest season. Here’s how AP 2012 stacks up right now with Jim Brown 1963 – each with 14 games under their belts.
- Jim Brown 1963: 291 attempts, 1,863 yards, 6.40 YPA, 12 TD
- Adrian Peterson 2012: 289 attempts, 1,812 yards, 6.34 YPA, 11 TD
Peterson, of course, has quite a milestone well within his reach. He is 293 yards shy of matching Eric Dickerson’s single season record (2,105 yards) set with the Rams back in 1984.
AP is also the 20th player in NFL history to top 1,800 yards in a season, currently sitting at No. 19 with two games to play, just behind LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 (1,815 yards) and Dickerson in 1983 (1,808).
Only three players topped 1,800 yards in the 14-game era: Brown (above), Walter Payton (1,852 in 1977) and O.J. Simpson twice (2,003 in 1973 and 1,817 in 1975). So Peterson is in rare company with his 1,812 yards in 14 games.
But you know that we here at the Cold, Hard Football Facts value efficiency over volume. Efficiency is a function of how good you are, volume is merely a function of how often you do something. And, of course, as we’ve proven through the years, efficiency has a high correlation to wins and losses; volume virtually none.
With that said, Peterson is truly in elite company right now with his 1,812 yards on just 289 attempts.
He’s likely to enter the record books as just the fourth player in NFL history to average more than 6.0 YPA over the long haul of a season, and by that we mean with 250+ rushing attempts – joining three of the greatest ball carriers in history in the process.
- Jim Brown 1963 – 291 attempts, 1,863 yards, 6.40 YPA, 12 TD
- Adrian Peterson 2012 – 289 attempts, 1,812 yards, 6.34 YPA, 11 TD
- Barry Sanders 1997 – 335 attempts, 2,053 yards, 6.13 YPA, 11 TD
- O.J. Simpson 1973 – 332 attempts, 2,003 yards, 6.03 YPA, 12 TD
That’s some great company (as long as we don't including husbanding skills in the "great" equation).
Peterson is also No. 6 all time, with two games to play, in rushing yards per game in a season. Here’s the list:
- O.J. Simpson 1973 – 14 games, 2,003 yards, 143.1 YPG
- Jim Brown 1963 – 14 games, 1,863 yards, 133.1 YPG
- Walter Payton 1977 – 14 games, 1,852 yards, 132.2 YPG
- Eric Dickerson 1984 – 16 games, 2,105 yards, 131.6 YPG
- O.J. Simpson 1975 – 14 games, 1,817 yards, 129.8 YPG
- Adrian Peterson 2012 – 14 games, 1,812 yards, 129.4 PG
Clearly, Peterson has Dickerson’s single-season record 2,105 yards within reach. AP needs to average 146.5 YPG over the final two for the 8-6 Vikings, next week at Houston and in the season finale at home against the Packers. So it's no gimme, not by a longshot. But it is possible.
Our man called Scott Hanson at NFL RedZone called the assault on the single-season rushing mark “one of the most coveted records in football.”
Clearly, it’s a coveted individual stat. But the Cold, Hard Football Facts show that it’s hardly a consequential stat, at least as far as team success is concerned. In fact, it’s a record that simply serves to highlight the relative meaningless of individual and team rushing stats in pro football.
For example, of the four teams with running backs on the 250+/6.0+ plus list, only Sanders and the 9-7 Lions reached the postseason. And they were one and done.
So a historic season running the football makes for great headlines. And AP certainly deserves all the credit in the world, especially considering he's overcome a catastrophic knee injury to get here. But these great rushing records don't usually make for a great season for the team.
We'll have more on this phenomenon in the hours and days ahead. As the NFL has always been, it's a league in which efficient quarterbacks, and little else, prove the difference between contenders and pretenders, even if that pretender boasts one of the best RBs of all time.
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