Adrian Peterson had one of the best seasons for a running back in NFL history.
Statistics can be twisted and spun a number of different ways to argue anything. In sports, statistics have become so important that they have sprung fantasy leagues worldwide for many of the most popular sports people watch.
The better stats the players you select in your fantasy draft have, the better your fantasy team does—in theory, anyway.
But we are not here to talk fantasy sports—not today. We are here simply to talk stats. While these stats are not always crucial to a team’s success—as you will see—they are mind-boggling nonetheless.
Personal feats and records are part of what makes sports so entertaining for we, the fans.
The last handful of NFL seasons have seen players accomplish some incredible feats once thought impossible to achieve. For some, they are now commonplace.
Here are 10 of the most impressive stats from the 2012 NFL season:
All statistics are gathered from ProFootballReference.com unless otherwise stated.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 5,177 yards in 2012.
That is the third time in his career he has eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark for a season.
Why is that so impressive?
When Dan Marino set the NFL record by throwing for 5,084 yards in 1984, it was the first time in NFL history anyone had broken the 5,000-yard mark.
No one did it again until Brees in 2008 when he came just 16 yards short of breaking Marino’s record. No one had done it before Marino, and no one did it again until 24 seasons later.
Brees did it again in 2011, this time smashing Marino’s record and throwing for 5,476 yards. Tom Brady (5,235) also surpassed Marino’s mark and Matt Stafford (5,038) came close, but the record was all that mattered.
To put what Brees has done in perspective, his three seasons of 5,000-plus passing yards are the same amount of times others have done it in NFL history. Marino, Brady and Stafford are the only others—one time each.
The Saints finished 7-9 after a dreadful start to the season and are not in the playoffs this season.
Stafford's 727 pass attempts are the most for a single season in NFL history.
The previous record was 691, set by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.
Stafford accumulated 4,967 passing yards in 2012, nearly joining Brees as the only quarterbacks in history to throw for 5,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons.
His team, however, did not benefit from all the passing. It may have suffered from it, in fact.
He threw the ball 40 or more times in 13 of 16 games—another NFL record. Brees did it 10 times this season, and other than Peyton Manning doing the same in 2010, no other quarterback has done it more than nine times.
Detroit led the league with 66.3 percent of its offensive plays coming by way of the pass. That is actually less than last year’s Lions squad, which threw on 67.1 percent of offensive plays.
So much passing led to Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s NFL record for receiving yards in a season.
Rice’s 1,848 yards in 1995 came as the league was ready to adopt change to the passing game and the way it is defended. The season after Rice set the record, the NFL began enforcing the illegal contact penalty more stringently. That has only aided passing attacks of late.
But despite new rules helping offenses pass the ball more, the record was thought one of the toughest to break.
That is, until Johnson did so and nearly became the first receiver to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
The Lions finished 4-12 in 2012.
The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers both find themselves in the playoffs this season.
Part of their success in 2012 can be attributed to pass-rushers J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith.
Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks from his 3-technique defensive end position—an unheard of number coming from that spot in a defense.
Smith was close behind, finishing second with 19.5 from his outside linebacker position.
Seven represents the total games each recorded more than one sack this season, tied for third-most in NFL history since the sack became an official stat during 1983 season. It is the most any two players have matched in the same season in NFL history, breaking the mark of six games set last year by Jared Allen and Jason Babin.
Only New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett (8) and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White (9) did it more in one season. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
The Texans’ Watt set a new standard for defensive players this season.
Fifteen passes defended and 10 sacks. That had never been done in a single season before 2012.
Separating the two statistics, it was found that the most sacks by a defender who had recorded at least 15 passes defensed in a season was 3.5, by safety Brian Dawkins of the Eagles in 2005.
Then, the most passes defensed by a player who had recorded at least 10 sacks in a season was 14, by Jamir Miller of the Cleveland Browns in 2001.
Never before had a player recorded 10-plus sacks and batted 15-plus passes. Watt went for 20.5 and 16 in 2012.
It can be considered one of the best defensive seasons in pro football history, but that is arguable and not what this article is intended to do. That can be left for another day.
But would you argue that with Watt?
No, you would not.
For as bad a player as he seems, Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner is money when it counts.
Seven of Turner’s 10 rushing touchdowns gave the Falcons the lead this season.
That 70 percent mark is the NFL high for running backs.
Four of the seven came in the fourth quarter of games. No other player had more than two.
Turner has been ridiculed this season for being unable to gain yards on a regular basis. He carried 222 times for 800 yards (3.6 yards per carry) and 10 scores.
When given the ball on the first play of Falcons drives this season, Turner carried 68 times for 196 yards (2.9 yards per carry), one safety and no touchdowns. A staggering 36 of those 68 carries (52.9 percent) went for two yards or less.
He was even worse on the first play of games, carrying nine times for 14 yards (1.6 yard per carry) with no touchdowns—six of the nine carries (66.7 percent) gained two or fewer yards.
But he was clutch when the Falcons needed him, and that can help them in the playoffs.
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington was spectacular all season.
He tied for 11th in the NFL with 134 total tackles and led all inside linebackers with nine sacks.
His sack total is the most by an ILB since the Saints’ Charlie Clemons set the record with 13.5 in 2001.
Washington is the only defensive player—at any position—to record at least 130 tackles and nine sacks since the tackle became a uniformly-recorded statistic in 1994. Yet, he is an alternate on the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster.
Brian Urlacher’s 125-tackle, eight-sack rookie season of 2000 is the closest anyone gets.
Say what you want about the Cardinals and their epic fail of a 2012 season, but you cannot take away the fact that Washington did what no other player ever has—officially—done.
It is a credit to defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s system, no doubt. But without the athlete, there is no record.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had a monstrous rookie season.
He set the NFL rookie record for field goal percentage (92.1), tied the record for field goals made (35) and tied for second among all-time rookie seasons in points scored (141).
He was a perfect 10-of-10 from 50-plus yards with a long of 56.
Two of his kicks ended games. The first came Week 1 in an overtime game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and came from 38 yards out. The second, Week 17 on the game’s final play against the Green Bay Packers, was from 29 yards out and sent Minnesota to the playoffs.
This year’s class of rookie quarterbacks proved to be the best of all-time.
Between them, they compiled 46 wins, by far the most of any rookie class in NFL history.
The famed rookie class of 1983 that featured Dan Marino, John Elway and even Andrew Luck’s father, Oliver Luck, won 16 games.
Three of this season’s rookies led their respective team to the playoffs. That had never been done before. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did so in 2008; Andy Dalton and T.J. Yates did it last year—Yates was by default after Matt Schaub broke his foot and Matt Leinart broke his collarbone.
Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and the younger Luck all made the playoffs as rookies.
Griffin III finished third in the league with a 102.4 passer rating. Wilson was fourth with a 100.0 rating.
While Luck posted a passer rating of just 76.5—good for 26th in the NFL—he led all quarterbacks and tied an NFL record with seven game-winning drives.
The top overall pick from 2012 also set the rookie record with 4,374 passing yards.
They are a special bunch, and they have done too much for everything to be written here. But Bleacher Report FC and stats god Scott Kacsmar laid it all out perfectly. Take a look at these rookies’ entire body of work.
This number is beyond anything anyone could have imagined coming into the 2012 season.
Anyone other than Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson would have called this number a pipe dream after the injuries they sustained.
As you all know, Peterson fell nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season NFL rushing record, churning out 2,097 yards on the ground and averaging a sick 3.93 yards after contact (per ProFootballFocus).
Peterson had four rushing touchdowns of greater than 60 yards in 2012, tying Jim Brown’s NFL record set way back in 1963.
Charles tied an NFL record as well, with three touchdowns coming from 80 yards or more—a record Chris Johnson set in 2009 and matched again this year.
Their toughness and will should never come into question.
As impressive as are all priors stats you have read, none of them compare to Peyton Manning’s 2012 season.
Before September, it was unknown whether Manning would be able to play football games this season.
After the season he put together, he has people straining to remember he had four neck surgeries that nearly cost him his career.
He completed 400 passes (No. 6 in the NFL). He completed 68.6 percent of his passes (No. 2) for 4,659 yards (No. 6), gained 7.99 yards per attempt (No. 2), threw 37 touchdowns (No. 3) and compiled a passer rating of 105.8 (No. 2).
He led the Denver Broncos to the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The 13-3 record his team owns is the second-best in franchise history—second to only his boss’s 1998 squad that won Super Bowl XXXIII.
Manning’s comeback season did not garner as much publicity as Peterson’s because of the myriad of NFL records with which “AD” flirted. But he was every bit as valuable as Peterson was—if not more.
Manning threw for at least 300 yards nine times this season. That was second to only Brees. He led three fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives.
That includes erasing a 24-point deficit to the San Diego Chargers on October 15 in which the Broncos were down 24-0 at one point. They scored the final 35 points of the game, including 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter after trailing by 10.