In 2012, both Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson had spectacular seasons that warrant not only consideration for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, but also the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award as well.
While Manning took an 8-8 Denver Broncos team to a 13-3 record that was tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the league, Peterson still deserves the award much more, not only for putting up the second best season by a running back ever, with his 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on six yards per carry—something we may never see again in our lifetime or maybe even again at all in the NFL—but for exactly what he did on the last drive of the Minnesota Vikings' victory over their NFC North rival Green Bay Packers this past Sunday afternoon.
Exactly a year after undergoing surgery for torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, Peterson and the Vikings were fighting for their playoff lives. They found themselves on their own 28-yard line, tied at 34 with the Packers, and Peterson needing just 45 yards to break Erick Dickerson’s near three-decade old rushing record.
The drive started off with the Packers loading the box, and with B.J. Raji stopping a Peterson run for a one-yard loss. Then quarterback Christian Ponder threw a great deep pass out of the shotgun to receiver Michael Jenkins for a great 25-yard catch to the Packers 48-yard line, before he was ran out of bounds.
Peterson then got a couple more carries for short gains before running off a spectacular 26-yard run to the Packers 11-yard line that set up the game-winning 29-yard field goal by rookie kicker Blair Walsh.
Like he did for most of the season, especially in the Vikings’ last 10 games, Peterson practically carried the team on his back and helped secure another Vikings victory.
During his incredible stretch run, Peterson helped the Vikings win six of their last 10 games and rushed for 150 yards or more in six of those games, with only one game in which he failed to produce 100 yards.
The thing that makes those numbers even more impressive is the fact that he did it with teams anticipating the run and stacking eight to nine players a time in the box to stop him—yet they still couldn’t.
This all happened because, in Week 9, the Vikings lost their only other huge playmaker in receiver Percy Harvin—who was a possible MVP candidate himself before his injury.
Yes, Peyton put up some good numbers himself to help the Broncos improve their win total by five games, but Peterson was the more valuable of the two to his team. A.D. helped the Vikings go from a 3-13 team to a 10-6 playoff team. That is a seven-win improvement from the year before.
This is also not to mention that the Broncos had a far easier schedule than the Vikings this year. Their opponents had a combined record of 117-139 (a .457 winning percentage), while the Vikings had a far tougher schedule with their opponents going a combined 132-122-2 (a .516 winning percentage).
You can also add the fact that the Broncos defense is so great (ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL) and helped them win many of the games they did, compared to the Vikings defense, which outside of the amazing effort they put forth in Week 16 against the Houston Texans, wasn’t all that great most of the season (ranked 16th in NFL).
You don’t even have to look at any more stats in order to see that Peterson, without a shadow of a doubt, was the more valuable and indispensable player to his team in 2012.
Nothing against Manning, but if you take him away from the Broncos, they are still at least a nine to 10 win playoff team because they have such a great defense and played this season in a historically abysmal AFC West, whose teams combined for a measly .271 winning percentage this season.
Had Peterson got injured again though—especially after the Vikings already lost Harvin, who is currently on injured reserve—they would have been lucky to win three, four or five games, let alone be in contention for even making the playoffs.
Thus, there is no doubt that Peterson should not only win the MVP, but win it outright, with this past Sunday’s performance really exemplifying why he should be the league’s sole Most Valuable Player.