A month ago, I did a review of the new book by Minneapolis Star-Tribune NFL writer Mark Craig, entitled 100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. It really is a very good book, and with the Christmas shopping season officially upon us, it would be an outstanding gift for the Minnesota Vikings fan in your life.
The publisher of the book, Triumph Books, has given us the opportunity to reprint an entire chapter of this book right here in this space for your reading pleasure. It gives you a feel for the sort of stories that Mr. Craig has included in this compilation.
Given our story earlier about the potential return of Adrian Peterson, we’re highlighting one of his biggest moments, the game that saw him set the NFL’s single-game rushing record against the San Diego Chargers back in 2007. Enjoy!
In his first NFL game, Adrian Peterson caught a screen pass and went 60 yards for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at the Metrodome. In his fifth game, he ran for 224 yards at Soldier Field in Chicago.
In his eighth game, he had 43 yards rushing at halftime. Yeah, November 4, 2007, was shaping up as a pretty nondescript home game against the San Diego Chargers. But that would change in a hurry. Peterson exploded in the second half, rushing for 253 yards on 18 carries. And he could have had many more. Backup Chester Taylor, a 1,200-yard rusher the year before, had five of the team’s final seven carries for 47 yards in a 35–17 rout. “I was just sitting over there on the sideline,” Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “I was thinking, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
No one had. Peterson’s 296 yards on 30 carries (a 9.9 yard-per-carry average) broke the NFL single-game record of 295 set by Jamal Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens against the Cleveland Browns four years earlier. Tomlinson, the league’s reigning MVP at the time, had 40 yards on 16 carries (2.5). “I don’t want to watch SportsCenter tonight, I know that,” Chargers strong safety Clinton Hart said. “You just don’t think it can happen because it’s never happened. Ever.”
Meanwhile, in the other locker room, teammates were left shaking their heads once again over this 6'1", 220-pound rookie. “You don’t know what the kid is going to do next,” safety Darren Sharper said. “Every time he touches the ball, you don’t know. It could be the play of all time.”
Chargers defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who had held the same position with the Vikings two years earlier, called the afternoon a “perfect storm,” in which defensive injuries at all three levels collided with a red-hot, once-in-a-generation running back. The first injury blow was to outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, who was inactive with a groin injury. The second blow came early in the game when cornerback Quentin Jammer, a reliable tackler in run support, left with a hamstring injury. And the final and most devastating blow came right before Peterson barreled around right end for his 64-yard touchdown romp with 12 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter. Right defensive end Luis Castillo, the best run stopper in the Chargers’ 3-4 scheme, wasn’t in the game to set the edge. He was out with a serious ankle injury. “What happened in the second half,” said Cottrell, “is Castillo got hurt. That really hurt.”
Before Castillo went down, Peterson had 49 yards and a 1-yard touchdown on 14 carries. With Castillo out, Peterson had 247 yards and touchdowns of 64 and 46 yards on 16 carries.
Add it all up, and the Vikings’ 378 rushing yards were the most by a Vikings team and the most against a Chargers team. The Vikings’ previous record had stood for 43 years, while the Chargers’ mark had been around for 32 years. “That,” linebacker Shawne Merriman said, “is embarrassing.”
To this day, then-coach Brad Childress won’t hesitate when asked about his most vivid memory from that game. “Antonio Cromartie taking our missed field goal back 109 yards for a touchdown right before halftime,” said Childress, referring to Cromartie’s record-setting play as time expired in the first half. “That put us down 14–7.”
Ask Childress what he remembers most after that, and, well, Peterson surfaces. “There was a stretch run play that they could not defend, so we stayed with it,” Childress said. “When Adrian is running circles around the defense, you stick with it.”
Peterson had eight carries for 107 yards in the third quarter. At the 10:07 mark of the fourth quarter, he surpassed 200 yards, albeit on a 12-yard carry that ended with him fumbling the ball away. At that point, Peterson became the first rookie in NFL history to rush for 200 yards twice. “I wasn’t thinking about the record at all,” Peterson said. “Oh, no, I was just out there playing ball.”
Peterson’s 26th carry was the 46-yard touchdown. His next carry went seven yards. A one-yard loss on the next play was negated by a holding call on Ryan Cook. Peterson was pulled and replaced by Taylor, who had four straight carries for 34, five, zero, and two yards for a touchdown with 4:22 left. Peterson, meanwhile, sat just 37 yards from the record.
The Vikings got the ball back with 1:58 left. Peterson went up the middle for 35 yards. Taylor got the next carry for six yards. In the meantime Vikings public relations director Bob Hagan had called down to the sideline to have one of his staff members inform Childress that Peterson was only two yards from the record.
With 1:04 left, Peterson went up the middle for three yards. The Vikings took a knee with 17 seconds left, and the record fell. “Adrian has a bright future,” the Hall of Fame-bound Tomlinson said. “He’s off to one heck of a start.”
Thank you to the good folks at Triumph Books for allowing us to reprint this chapter of Mark Craig’s book.
This excerpt from 100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Mark Craig is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information please visit www.triumphbooks.com/100vikings.