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Vikings Records Week: Will anyone break Adrian Peterson’s single game rushing record?

It might be untouchable in today’s NFL.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I promised you that we’d get back into more positive records today after yesterday’s look at Jim Marshall’s wrong-way run, and today we’re getting into one Minnesota Vikings’ record that our humble corner of the internet was actually around to witness.

Granted, nobody saw it here. The Game Thread for the game between the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers at the Metrodome on 4 November 2007 had a whopping. . .32 comments! For four quarters of action. That’s about two minutes of game action in one of our Game Threads today. But, it still happened, and it was awesome, and we probably shouldn’t expect what happened that day to be eclipsed anytime soon.

That afternoon at the Metrodome, rookie running back Adrian Peterson put on a performance for the ages. More accurately, he put on a second half for the ages. Going into halftime with the Vikings trailing the Chargers by a score of 14-7 (after allowing Antonio Cromartie to run a missed field goal back for a 109-yard touchdown to end the half), Peterson had just 43 yards rushing and one short touchdown run.

In the second half, however, Peterson put together what might be the single greatest offensive performance in NFL history. He rushed for 253 yards in that second half. . .a mark that, by itself, would be tied for the ninth-best single-game rushing performance in NFL history. He averaged nearly ten yards a carry for the game, and helped push the Vikings past the Chargers by a final score of 35-17.

In the ten seasons from 2008 to 2017, Peterson’s record has only been threatened a few times. Cleveland Browns’ running back Jerome Harrison put up 286 yards in a 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in December of 2009, and three other backs have gone over the 250-yard mark since then. However, with the steady trend of teams in the National Football League relying more heavily on the pass than ever, is anyone going to seriously challenge Peterson’s record?

With teams going to more shotgun-based spread formations, there seems to be less emphasis on the run everywhere. In 2017, all 32 NFL teams called more pass plays than run plays. . .even teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills that are considered “run first” offenses. The same was the case in 2016, and in 2015 there was just one team that called more runs than passes (and only two in 2014).

In the ten seasons since Peterson set that single-game record, there have been 36 games where a single player has rushed for 200 yards or more. Of those 36, only nine happened between 2014 and 2017, and the 2017 season didn’t see a single 200-yard rushing game. The last 200-yard performance by a running back was a 236-yard game by Le’Veon Bell in December of 2016.

Along with that, the “workhorse” running back seems to be a thing of the past. Teams now tend to favor a more committee-based approach to the running back position, and that’s certainly going to limit a back’s ability to threaten Peterson’s mark. The running back position has really taken a backseat as spread offenses have proliferated across the National Football League, and teams no longer draft running backs with the expectation that they’re going to turn into a 25 or 30-carry per game back. Rather, they draft running backs (or sign them in free agency) with the expectation that they’ll complement what their other backs can do, such as Peterson and Chester Taylor or, to a lesser extent, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

Sure, we might get some random strange game where one guy breaks numerous long touchdown runs and manages to pass Adrian Peterson for the single-game rushing record. However, with the way NFL offenses are trending and the de-emphasis on the running back position, I’d be willing to bet against it happening any time soon.


Do you think anyone will ever seriously threaten Adrian Peterson’s single-game rushing record?

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