After starting the season with a 31-yard rushing effort on 10 carries in Week 1, Adrian Peterson has been on a roll and back in the lead as the NFL’s most productive running back for rushing yards.
To him, that should be a given if he wants to reach his seemingly ridiculous goal.
“That’s one of my personal goals,” said of leading the league. “But if I’m sitting here telling you 2,500 yards, then I better get to the rushing title.”
For the record, he would need to average 170 yards over the last 13 games of the season to reach that goal.
Peterson never shies away from questions of what is possible, and he’s reset the standard for comebacks from a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the end of 2011 and come within eight yards of the all-time single-season record. But even then he was more than 400 yards short of his lofty 2,500-yard goal.
After his and the Minnesota Vikings’ poor start against the San Francisco 49ers, some started to wonder if maybe he had reached the wall for 30-year-old running backs. His response?
“I don't believe that at all. I'm feeling (good). I had a year off the body, so that was a year less of wear and tear of playing a season. God has blessed me with tremendous talent and healing power, will power and just a drive to be able to do anything I put my mind to,” Peterson said. “So I just try to keep my mind positive and just control the things that I can control and let the naysayers and the critics do what they do best.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to still have it. A year off, I'm still young. Where did that originate from? Is that looking at statistics or what, about a 30-year-old back?”
There are examples on both sides of the argument concerning running backs with diminished production after 30 and those that held off Father Time for a few more years.
Still, Peterson’s greatest challenge might come Sunday against the Denver Broncos. They have the top-ranked defense overall, are sixth against the run, and have limited opponents to an average of 3.72 yards on first down, setting up another league-leading statistic – 18 percent conversion rates on third down.
“I see why they’re the No. 1-ranked defense. Up front, they’re just stout, they’re strong, they’re fast,” Peterson said. “… This is going to be the best defense we have faced thus far. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
But after rushing for 31 yards and a 3.1-yard average in the season opener, his average has steadily climbed. In Week 2, it was 4.6 yards per carry. Last Sunday, against the San Diego Chargers, he averaged 6.3 yards per carry.
He says he is “back” and also back into football shape.
“Having the opportunity to open my lungs, getting my lungs back opened. I don’t care what you do, there’s nothing like getting out there, breaking away from guys, cutting on guys on a dime,” he said. “I was able to get my legs back under me the first couple weeks and do some extra conditioning to kind of open my lungs up. Physically, I feel like I’m back to where I need to be.”
But another factor for Peterson’s improvement might be getting more carries in the traditional style he is used to – 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage with the quarterback under center. All 20 of his carries last week came in that formation while 40 percent of his carries – granted, from a small sample size – in Week 1 came with Teddy Bridgewater in the pistol or shotgun.
But Peterson said there was no lobbying of offensive coordinator Norv Turner to be used more with Bridgewater under center.
“I think you just sit back and look at things, evaluate things and see. I don’t know what goes through his mind, but he’s been making some good adjustments and I can’t complain. I can’t tell him what to do. He’s been doing it for way longer than me. I just do what I’m told,” Peterson said.
“He’s been doing it a long time. He’s a legend. I’ll let him sit back and evaluate things and whatever he asks us to do, we put our best foot forward.”