Will Peterson's run at rushing record take Vikes to playoffs?
Whoever arranged Sunday's matchup in Minneapolis deserves a medal.
To say there is a lot at stake in the 3:25 p.m. game between Minnesota and Green Bay is an understatement. Who saw the Vikings vying for a playoff spot when the season began? Who saw Adrian Peterson pushing Eric Dickerson for the National Football League's single-season rushing record?
The Vikings were pitiful last year, as they won just three of their 16 games. Yet, through the magic of the NFL college draft, they have been able to repair their broken team in 2012.
No. 1 pick Matt Kalil has done a great job of protecting Christian Ponder's blind side from his tackle spot, Harrison Smith has been everything the Vikes hoped for at strong safety, Josh Robinson has played a good corner, and Jarius Wright led the team in receptions last Sunday at Houston.
The best rookie of them all has been Blair Walsh, a kicker whom the Vikings drafted out of Georgia. Walsh has been superb and gives the Vikes a scoring threat they can use from 55 yards out.
After their bye week in November, the Vikings were looking at a whale of a challenge. They started off their critical six-game stretch by losing to Chicago and Green Bay on the road. Yet, those intangibles should not be ignored. The Vikings have been a good December team since the days of Dennis Green, and these Vikings have kept the tradition going. They have come back to beat Chicago, St. Louis and Houston, and they have a full head of steam going into Sunday's second meeting with the Packers.
The absolute heart of the Vikings during this stretch has been a future Hall of Famer from Oklahoma. His great 2012 season started in early September when he surprised everyone by starting in the season opener with Jacksonville.
Peterson can be three-quarters dead and still explode for a huge gainer, like he did in the fourth quarter of the St. Louis game. Given any running room at all, this guy is terrific. What makes it all the more remarkable is the ACL surgery he had on his knee in the off-season.
Peterson needs 208 yards to break Dickerson's record. For most NFL backs, a day like that would be impossible. Not for Peterson. It will be his pursuit of Dickerson's mark that draws the attention of NFL fans this Sunday.
Dickerson set his record in 1984, his second season with the Los Angeles Rams. He helped the Rams finish second in their division that year with a 10-6 mark. Unfortunately for the Rams, there was another California team with an even better record: the San Francisco 49ers. And they were headed for a victory in the Super Bowl over the Miami Dolphins.
Football is the ultimate team sport, so as much as I would like to see Peterson set a new record, I want to see the Vikings playing in January even more. The best Christmas present for Viking fans may still be under the tree.