Adrian Peterson rarely stops impressing, especially in a season that was supposed to start slow because he was coming back from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 30, 2011.
But less than a year removed from that surgery, there is nothing slow about Peterson. It took him only one month into the season to reach the 100-yard mark for a game with his 102-yard performance at Detroit on Sept. 30, but he has hardly taken a break from those 100-yard games since.
He has passed the 100-yard mark in his last six games, a franchise record, and that includes performances of 210 yards at Green Bay Sunday, 182 yards at Seattle on Nov. 4, and 171 yards against Detroit on Nov. 11.
He now leads the NFL with 1,446 rushing yards, more than 300 yards in front of second-place Marshawn Lynch and more rushing yards than 22 NFL teams. While the Vikings have been sputtering, losing four of their last five games, Peterson has tried to will them to stay relevant in the playoff chase. His top two performances of the season have come in losses.
"You're just extremely proud of his attitude and his approach. He wants to win as much as anybody and that is the only accomplishment that he is concerned about," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Sunday. "He's disappointed with the fact that we didn't win, and the fact that he ran for 210, that's important but it's not as important to him that we didn't win the game. That's the beauty of Adrian Peterson. He's the total team guy. He wants to win."
"You want to see him celebrate, and it's hard to celebrate after this loss."
Still, Peterson's accomplishments should be celebrated even while the Vikings' passing game is being vilified. His accomplishments are too many to be ignored or lost in a cloud of the team's losing streak.
He is now averaging over 6.2 yards per carry this season – only two other players in NFL history have finished a season leading the league in rushing yards with a per-carry average as high as Peterson's current mark – Beattie Feathers in 1934 (8.4 yards) and Jim Brown in 1963 (6.4) – according to Elias Sports Bureau.
He also eclipsed the 8,000-yard mark in his 85th career game, tying him with Emmitt Smith for the sixth-fastest to 8,000 yards in NFL history. Only Eric Dickerson, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell and Edgerrin James reached that milestone quicker.
The fact that Peterson has only one playoff win (a 2009 divisional playoff win over Dallas) in his career has some starting to compare him to Sanders, whose incredible career languished among the futility of the Detroit Lions.
Sunday's loss at Lambeau Field – one of only three 200-yard performances in an NFL loss since 2000 – left Peterson feeling conflicted.
"It's very disappointing, especially the way we ran the ball today, and now you can look at it and say it was all for nothing," he said Sunday.
His 210-yard show (all in the first three quarters) at Lambeau Field marked the 12th game of his career with at least 150 yards rushing, the most any active player.
"So many great things that happened with Adrian and our offensive line, the way they performed," Frazier said. "Just an incredible effort by Adrian but for our team not to win, Adrian will be the first to tell you, it's something that we went into that game hoping that what we'd be able to do is come away with a win and at the same time being able to see him have a great day. We didn't get that done."
It was no fault of Peterson, who also has four of the NFL's top 14 single-game rushing performances this season, with efforts of 210 yards (at Green Bay), 182 yards (at Seattle), 171 yards (vs. Detroit) and 153 yards (vs. Arizona).
He set the franchise record with his fifth career 1,000-yard season and ranks second in combined yards (rushing, receiver, return yards) in the NFL this season.
Less than one year ago, not only were NFL observers wondering if Peterson would be able to come close to 1,000 yards this year, they were wondering if he would ever be the same running back again. In the past six games, he is averaging 158 yards rushing. He needs to average 139 yards over the next four to eclipse 2,000 yards this season for the first time in his career.
His post-surgery statements in January proved prophetic. He isn't just the same running back he was before the surgery, he's better than ever.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.