Eight years after a game in which LaDainian Tomlinson effectively passed the torch to Adrian Peterson as the best running back in the NFL, Peterson isn’t ready to give up that label.
Peterson ran for a single-game record 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers in 2007 when Tomlinson was the king of running backs. Back then, Peterson and Tomlinson had heard the comparisons and Tomlinson wasn’t ready to cede the title. But after that mammoth performance from the running back that came into the NFL dubbed “All Day,” there was no other choice.
“I went into the that game, L.T. was a guy I looked up to and one of the guys that inspired me to be great, as well. So I was pretty wired up to see him run and play against him,” the Minnesota Vikings running back said Thursday. “So, yeah, I guess you could kind of say that passing the torch. I’m not ready to pass the torch, I can tell you that, though.”
He hasn’t. Others may be more versatile, but Peterson proved last week against the Detroit Lions that he is still able to carry the ball “All Day” and post 100-yard games. He had 29 carries on Sunday for 134 yards and added two receptions for 54 yards.
But as he prepares to face the San Diego Chargers for the third time in his career, that 2007 meeting as a rookie remains the high-water mark in the NFL record book.
He had 43 yards in the first half but exploded for 253 yards rushing in the second half on that Nov. 4, 2007 game. He had runs of 64 yard and 46 yards for touchdowns, as well non-scoring runs of 35, 19, 17 and 16 yards, and a 19-yard pass play. In all, he had seven plays that went for more than 15 yards each.
Two, however, stick out – one because he listened to his position coach at the time, Eric Bieniemy, and found the room to run that Bieniemy insisted was there in the first half, the other because Peterson fumbled at the end of it.
Peterson carried 30 times in that historic game, but Chester Taylor also had nine carries for 60 yards in the 35-17 Vikings win. Four more yards and Peterson would have broken the 300-yard mark.
“I do look back and was like, ‘Man, I could have been the first person to go for 300. Four yards!’” he said. “But at the end of the day I guess it wasn’t meant to happen because it didn’t happen. I can say this: If I get close to 296 or 300 again, I’ll be asking for it for this time.”
Peterson said he still thinks it’s possible someone will reach the 300-yard rushing mark and hopes it’s him.
But his focus is on the now. Despite a 134-yard performance last week, he believes he isn’t back to the old – or is it younger? – Peterson after missing all but the first game of last season.
“Body-wise, I really was able to kind of get my body broke in this (last) game – 29 carries, maybe like 30-something touches, so my body really took a pounding,” he said of last week’s performance. “So I kind of build that callous over the entire body once I get back out there so I’m sure guys will be bouncing off me a little more this Sunday.
“I worked extremely hard to be able to come back and be able to go and not look like I’ve missed a step. But I can tell. 130-something yards. Oh, he looks good, this, that and the other. But me personally, I wasn’t the Adrian Peterson that I remember last Sunday.”