For the third straight week, tragedy has again gripped our consciousness, this time away from the NFL — the horrific events in Connecticut on Friday. Sunday all across the NFL there were moments of silence and athletes and fans showing heartfelt expressions of sorrow for the senseless murders of the 26 victims.
The Vikings and Rams, before kickoff, gathered at midfield holding hands, with both head coaches and one player wearing the jersey number 26 representing the lives lost at the Sandy Hook school. President Barack Obama, speaking at a memorial service Sunday, said, “These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change.”
The Vikings kept alive their Wild Card playoff hopes by dominating the St. Louis Rams 36-22. The Vikings improved to 8-6, and with two games left they have positioned themselves as the number-six seed in the rugged NFC.
Adrian Peterson did it again: He took his team and his remarkable run for the NFL’s all-time single-season rushing mark to center stage. Peterson smashed his Vikings single-season rushing mark of 1,760 yards with a spectacular 212-yard rushing performance. He now has rushed for 1,812 yards and is within 294 yards of setting a new standard with two games to go. The mark is 2,105 set by Dickerson in 1984, and Peterson and his teammates have all hands on deck in pursuit.
The man is possessed with God-given greatness and inner determination to set a new standard in the NFL. Be on notice Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson: Peterson is coming after you. He is faster, stronger, lighter, and leading his team along the way.
Why can’t the Vikings have it all — the playoffs, the records, the franchises’ first-ever Super Bowl Championship? It’s all for the taking. It’s right in front of them. All they have to do is grab it.
Back when the Vikings were Super Bowl regulars — four times between 1969-76 — the AFC was the stronger conference. As great as Bud Grant’s teams were with Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary and Paul Krause, the AFC was bigger, stronger and better with Kansas City, Miami, Oakland and Pittsburgh.
Now the Vikings are on the strongest side; the NFC has proven in recent years to be superior to the AFC. The last three NFC Champions — New York, Green Bay, New Orleans — all won the Super Bowl also.
The Rams did everything Sunday to contain Peterson, and he refused to be stopped. He carried the ball 24 times Sunday, and seven times the Rams held him to no gain. On two runs, Peterson proved his explosive determination to hit a homerun.
His 82-yard run gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead. It tied the longest run of his career. If you recall, three weeks ago his 82-yard touchdown run at Green Bay gave the Vikings a 14-10 lead. They lost that game 23-14.
Not this time. Rookie Blair Walsh kicked five field goals, including three of 50 yards or more. Peterson had a 52-yard run also, so he gained 134 yards of his 212 yards on two carries. That says the Vikings stuck to the plan. They did not deviate from a strong power running game, a good kicking game, and protecting the football.
Quarterback Christian Ponder did his part Sunday. He did not mess up this game as he did in Green Bay. He was 17-21 for 131 yards, modest, and ran for the game’s opening score. It was his best performance in some time with no turnovers; his quarterback rating (QBR) was 83.2, a solid performance.
Peterson is the MVP in my book. The Vikings were a 3-13 team last year; now they are 8-6 with two games left. Right now, today, they are the sixth seed in the NFC. They are in the playoffs today. One problem: The regular season ends on December 30. Houston, 12-2 and the AFC’s best, will host the Vikings Sunday in Reliant Stadium. Peterson is averaging a remarkable 6.3 yards per carry; for seven straight weeks he has run for 100 yards or more.
The NFL record is nine straight 100-plus-yard games. Peterson has a chance to average 6.0 yards per carry for the season. It’s only happened four times in history in a minimum 250 carries. Cleveland’s Jim Brown in 1963 averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Buffalo’s O.J. Simpson in 1973 ran for 2,003 yards in 14 games averaging 6.0 per carry. Detroit’s Barry Sanders in 1997 averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Jamaal Charles with Kansas City, the last to do it, averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2010.
Only six players have run for 2,000 yards or more in a season. Will Peterson be number seven? Four times Peterson has run for 200 yards or more in his career. The record is six held by Simpson. Enjoy, Viking fans, you are witnessing what greatness is all about!
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.