We know that Adrian Peterson came up just 9 yards shy of setting a new single-season NFL rushing record in 2012, finishing the season with 2,097 yards on the ground. Thanks to Josh Kirkendall, our lead blogger over at Cincy Jungle, I have a list of all of the players that compiled 2,000 rushing yards in a season and how they fared the season after their big year. Let's take a look at them in chronological order.
O.J. Simpson (14-game season)
The first thing you notice is that, after playing in every game in the season they rushed for 2,000 yards (as you'd really sort of have to), only Sanders and Johnson played every game the following year, and they each had a significant drop-off as well. Sanders even rushed for fewer yards despite getting more carries than he had in his 2,000-yard campaign in 1997. Only Sanders and Simpson (in a 14-game season) needed fewer carries to reach 2,000-yards than Peterson's 348 this past season.
Adrian Peterson is all about bucking trends, as we saw this season. So why do I feel that it isn't entirely unreasonable to think that he could break the record he fell just short of this season and become the first running back in NFL history with back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons? Consider this.
Adrian Peterson accomplished this coming off of a season where he couldn't go through a normal training regimen. He had to focus pretty much all of his energy on rehabilitating a serious knee injury. (By the way, yesterday's 199-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers came on the one-year anniversary of Peterson's knee surgery.)
What is this man going to accomplish when he can spend this coming off-season going through a normal (well, normal for him, but probably not for any other mortal) workout program? Honestly, there's a pretty good chance that he's going to come back next year even stronger. . .even faster. . .even quicker. . .and even better. If you're a Vikings' opponent in 2013 and that doesn't terrify you, it probably should.
Presumably, the Minnesota Vikings will also have a better passing attack in 2012 to complement Peterson as well. Christian Ponder took a huge step forward yesterday afternoon, and with another threat at wide receiver, the Vikings will really be able to start making teams pay for stacking the box to stop the NFL's best running back.
Yes, the sight of Peterson finishing just nine yards short of taking down one of the NFL's greatest single-season records might be a bit of a disappointment for Vikings fans. But if anyone can follow up this campaign with something even more amazing, it's Adrian Peterson.