Adrian Peterson ran right past everyone this season. Past all those running backs before him who couldn’t make it to 2,000 yards in a season. Past every doubter who dared to think he wouldn’t make it back from a devastating knee injury.
Past everyone except Eric Dickerson.
Peterson became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, plowing through the Green Bay Packers for a 20-yard gain that put him over the top in the third quarter Sunday. He finished with 199 yards and a touchdown in the 37-34 victory, leaving him nine yards shy of breaking Dickerson’s single-season record.
“Ultimately we got the `W,”’ Peterson said after carrying the ball a career-high 34 times. “We said during the week, if it happens, it happens. Don’t focus on it.”
Peterson needed 208 yards when the day began to break Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. His 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up Blair Walsh’s winning field goal, a kick that clinched a playoff berth for the Vikings. He’ll have to settle for the second-best total – 2,097 yards – and a trip to Lambeau Field for a playoff rematch next Saturday night.
“I know Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now,” Peterson said with a chuckle, referencing public comments from Dickerson a few weeks back saying he hoped Peterson didn’t break his record. “But God willing, I’ll get it next year.”
Even without the record, his remarkable comeback season now has a magic number to punctuate it.
Peterson came in 102 yards shy of joining O.J. Simpson, Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson in the 2,000-yard club. Peterson is the only one to do it after reconstructive knee surgery, and he did it on the one-year anniversary of his knee surgery.
“He is without question the best running back in our game and truly, in my mind, the MVP of our league,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “We don’t win this game without Adrian Peterson.”
Cincinnati 23, Baltimore 17: Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday, sending the Cincinnati Bengals to a 23-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in a game that didn’t much matter to either playoff-bound team.
Buffalo 28, N.Y. Jets 9: C.J. Spiller scored on a 66-yard catch and run in helping the under-achieving Buffalo Bills end their season with a 28-9 win over the New York Jets.
Tampa Bay 22, Atlanta 17: The Falcons couldn’t follow through with their plan to gain momentum for the playoffs as Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams, Doug Martin ran for 141 yards and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Atlanta 22-17
Tennessee 38, Jacksonville 20: Tennessee became the first team in NFL history with two players scoring twice on returns in a game as the Titans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-20.
Chicago 26, Detroit 24: The Chicago Bears held on against Detroit before their playoff hopes faded away for good. Chicago needed a win over the Lions and a loss by Minnesota on Sunday to make the postseason. The Bears took care of their end, beating Detroit 26-24, but the Vikings edged the Packers 37-34 to earn a wild card.
Indianapolis 28, Houston 16: Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Deji Karim swung the game with a 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, giving the Colts a 28-16 victory over Houston.
Carolina 44, New Orleans 38: Drew Brees made more NFL history, but so did the Saints’ defense in an undesirable way, and the Carolina Panthers rallied to a 44-38. Brees passed for 396 yards, giving him 5,177 this season. That makes him the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times.
San Francisco 27, Arizona 13: Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a second straight NFC West title with a 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
New England 28, Miami 0: Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and the New England Patriots regained their dominance after a rare slump, earning a playoff bye with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Seattle 20, St. Louis 13: Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left gave Seattle a 20-13 win over the St. Louis Rams.
Denver 38, Kansas City 3: Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns Sunday to lift Denver to a 38-3 win over Kansas City that sealed the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs for the Broncos.
San Diego 24, Oakland 21: Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and San Diego beat the Oakland Raiders 24-21 on a wet, gloomy Sunday in what’s expected to be Norv Turner’s final game as Chargers coach.