As we count down to the NFL season, XN Sports will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.
Today’s feature team and question?
Eight yards. Less than a first down. That’s how far Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was away from tying Eric Dickerson’s nearly 30-year-old NFL record for rushing yards in a single season.
Heading into last year’s season finale against their Division rivals the Green Bay Packers, Peterson breaking the record seemed like a tall task. He needed 208 yards to break the long-time record and you knew that Green Bay would be ready for him. Peterson was ready, too, however. He ran extraordinarily well the entire game and needed only 44 yards on the Vikings’ final drive of the game.
He broke through for a 26-yard scamper with 24 seconds left, but unfortunately he came up just short. With three seconds left on the clock and in field goal range with a tie game, head coach Leslie Frazier had no choice but to kick for the win to get his team into the playoffs. That got Minnesota into the postseason, but left Peterson eight yards shy of Dickerson’s epic record.
Naturally, Peterson downplayed it afterwards but clearly wants the record. The running back doesn’t just have his sights on Dickerson’s record, though. Peterson has said on the record that his goal for the season is a whopping 2,500 yards. With all due respect, that’s pretty ridiculous. Peterson had an amazing season in 2012, but still fell about 400 yards short of that mark. Dickerson’s record has stood for nearly 30 years and the thought of someone utterly shattering it is hard to imagine.
So without entertaining the thought of 2,500 yards, can Peterson break Dickerson’s mark of 2,105? Yes, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.
For starters, Peterson’s season last year was a bit of an anomaly. He’d never really even come all that close to 2,100 yards in the past with his previous high 1,760 yards in 2008. Reaching nearly 2,100 yards was really something he hadn’t approached before.
Another reason I’m not sure Peterson can break Dickerson’s record is actually that 2008 season … or more to the point, the season that followed. After his breakout year, the running back’s numbers dropped significantly in 2009. Peterson still was one of the league’s top rushers, but he ran for 1,383 yards – a steep drop. He had 49 fewer attempts, but his yards per carry also fell from 4.8 yards to 4.4 yards.
Then there’s the workload. Peterson was an absolutely workhorse in 2012 with 348 carries. He averaged 22 carries a game last season and only ever tallied more than 20 per contest in that monster 2008 season. All of the carries certainly took a toll on him even though he played in every game and to expect him to do it again might be too much to ask.
Of course history is against him, too. Peterson, Dickerson, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, and Chris Johnson are the only running backs in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards. Not only did all of them fail to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons, but no one has ever even done it twice in their career. 2,000 yards is a special, special feat and for Peterson to do it twice would be bucking the trend.
Lastly, there’s also the injury factor. If Peterson wants the record, he’ll need every game he can get. Missing even one contest probably makes the feat impossible. In his six seasons, Peterson has been relatively healthy. However, he’s only played all 16 games three times. In other words, even getting the necessary games is only a 50/50 proposition.
Peterson is big, fast, and at 28, still relatively young. Still, the odds of him breaking Dickerson’s record in 2013 are probably against him.