Adrian Peterson’s battle back from a catastrophic knee injury has become his own War of 1812.
Last week, we took a look at the legendary running backs that Peterson could pass on his way to the top if he had 100 yards against St. Louis. He passed everyone we listed and a dozen more – moving from the 50th most rushing yards in a season in NFL history to 19th. The last person he passed last week was a 23-year-old Eric Dickerson, who ran for 1,808 yards for the Rams in 1983. At the end of Peterson’s run for the top is Dickerson again – this time a 24-year-old in 1984 who ran for 2,105 yards.
As impressive as the 30 players were that A.P. passed last week, the shortening list of players in front of him will pay the true testament to the incredible season Peterson has put together.
With four yards, he passes LaDainian Tomlinson (2006) into 18th place. With six yards, he passes O.J. Simpson’s 1975 season. With 10 yards, he passes Dickerson’s 1986 season into 16th place. The way things have been going for Peterson recently, he could go from 19th to 16th place on the all-time list on his first carry Sunday.
Another flood of players will come later in the day Sunday barring something unforeseen. Of the 15 individual seasons that will remain in front of him, they represent the career bests for each of the players Peterson will surpass with one exception – Barry Sanders is still on the list twice.
With 35 yards, Peterson will pass Jamal Anderson (1998). With 41 yards, he passes Walter Payton (1977). One yard later, he will pass Rickey Williams (2002). With 48 yards, he passes Tiki Barber (2005) and, with 52 yards, he steps into the realm of the all-timers, passing Jim Brown’s 1,863 yards in 1963.
Barring another 200-yard game, Peterson could quite possibly find himself in eighth or seventh place when all is said and done. With 69 yards, he passes Shaun Alexander (2005) into the top 10. Eighth place will come soon after, because he needs just three yards to pass two guys. With 72 yards, he will pass both Sanders (1994) and Ahman Green (2003).
To get into seventh place, Peterson will need to pass Texas legend Earl Campbell (1,934 yards in 1980). That will take 123 yards to take down the Tyler Rose. Beyond Campbell, it will take inclusion into the exclusive 2,000-yard club and that will likely take two games to gain entrance.
While much of the focus is on the 293 yards Peterson needs to catch Dickerson, there are others he will have to pass along the way. He needs 192 yards to pass Simpson (1973) into sixth place – the only member of the 2,000-yard fraternity who accomplished his feat in 14 games. Chris Johnson of the Titans will have his 2006 total passes with 195 yards. With 1997 he passes Terrell Davis (1998).
The current medal stand has Dickerson on top, flanked by Jamal Lewis (2,066 in 2003) and Sanders (2,053 in 1997). With 242 yards, Peterson takes over third place from Sanders. With 255 yards, he takes over Lewis’ spot at No. 2.
Wherever Peterson ends up, his journey up the all-time charts will be a testament to how great of a 2012 season he has had. As impressive as the list of players is that he surpassed Sunday, these are the Mount Rushmore types of the NFL that stand in front of him.
The numbers everyone seems to be focused on are 2,105 and 294 – Dickerson’s record-setting season at the top and the number of yards Peterson needs to break it. Instead, like paying tribute to fallen comrades, the focus can also be on the legends Peterson has passed and will pass on his journey toward the top. If there was any question that Peterson is a Hall of Fame-caliber player, 2012 is proving it and the rushing list he has joined this season is similar to the list he will join when he is enshrined in Canton. If he had any doubters, they’ve been silenced this season.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.