There are times when Adrian Peterson is unstoppable. Not in a metaphorical "You can only hope to contain him" sense, but in an actual, literal "We are stacking 12 men in the box on every play and he's still gashing our defense for 10 yards per play" sense. So it was when Peterson's Minnesota Vikings beat the Chicago Bears 23-20, in overtime, and Peterson ran for a season-high 211 yards in the game.
Starting quarterback Christian Ponder was his usual ineffective self before leaving the game with a possible concussion, completing 3-of-8 passes for 40 yards. It didn't matter -- Peterson just kept running. Matt Cassel, Ponder's replacement, was his usual competent but unexciting self, completing 20-of-33 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. It didn't matter -- Peterson just kept running. And in the fifth quarter, when it seemed that neither team wanted to win the game and kept bouncing it to each other, it didn't matter -- Peterson just kept running. And when the Vikings needed him the most on their final drive, Peterson just kept running, and did more than his part to put kicker Blair Walsh in position to kick the game-winning field goal with 1:41 left in overtime.
The Vikings were stalled at the Chicago 42-yard line, but Peterson got the ball down to the 16 with 26 rushing yards on three plays. Eleven yards here, four yards there, 11 more yards to finish the drive. As much of a mess as this team has been on offense this year, there may be no player in the NFL who carries his team on his back more -- and past said team's limitations.
There was a historical aspect to his performance as well -- Peterson became the third-fastest back to push past the 10,000-rushing yards total in his NFL career. Only Jim Brown (98) and Eric Dickerson (91) did it in fewer games than Peterson's 101. The mark came on one of the two 4th-and-1 situations Peterson converted in the game, when he broke off for a 19-yard scamper from the Chicago 31-yard line with 9:15 left in the game. Once again, it was Peterson's job to make the play when few others could. He had just 72 yards on 11 carries in the first half, and became more and more productive as the game went on, even though Chicago's defense was fully aware (as every other Vikings opponent is aware) who would decide the success of Minnesota's offense.
"You’ve watched him play throughout his career," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. "He’s amazing in so many ways. Even last year playing with a sports hernia at the end of the year and to come out now with a groin that’s sore and really inhibits him in a lot of ways -- to continue to battle through it and perform the way he performed. It’s just amazing. I don’t know if medically you’d ever say a guy could carry the ball 35 times, rush for 211 yards dealing with what he’s dealing with, the hamstring earlier in the season and now the groin. He’s amazing."
What Frazier said is worth clarifying -- Peterson did all of this with a groin injury that had bothered him throughout the week.
“I don’t know,” Peterson said with a laugh this week, when asked how he thought he'd do against a Bears defense allowing a league-worst 415.2 yards per game coming into this contest. “I don’t really want to sit here and make any predictions. I just want to contribute and do whatever it takes to help my team win. So if that’s 300 yards, perfect. If that’s 150, perfect; 50, with 100-something receiving, any way I can help my team get this 'W' this weekend, that’s pretty much all I’m worried about. I’m just going to go out there and play ball and let the chips fall where they may.” If the 3-8-1 Vikings are to win, it's pretty clear where the chips have to fall. As it has been for years, as long as Adrian Peterson keeps running, Minnesota has a chance.