Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards during a historic 2012 regular season, but it's the nine yards he didn't get that the Vikings running back may remember forever. Nine yards was what kept Peterson from breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing record of 2,105, in a season that saw him come back from an ACL tear to lead Minnesota to a 10-6 record and shocking playoff berth.
Not only did Peterson come back from his ACL injury, he came back more explosive than ever. According to Pro Football Focus, 56.5 percent of his yards came on "breakaway" gains.
Even if you set his fantastic recovery from ACL surgery aside, Peterson's astounding numbers still came under extremely untenable circumstances. He had to deal with eight or nine men in the box on almost every single play, thanks mostly to frustrating play from quarterback Christian Ponder.
The second-year signal-caller threw for 2,935 yards and 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, thoroughly mediocre numbers on the surface. But Ponder also had six different contests where he threw for fewer than 150 yards and completed a total of five passes thrown 21 or more yards through the air.
That inability to stretch the field is what made Peterson's explosiveness so critical. Without him in the lineup, it's hard to imagine the Vikings winning more than five games, let along making the playoffs.
Too often pundits use the trope of a player "single-handedly" carrying a team. Peterson's 2012 regular season is one of the few instances where it not only avoids hyperbole, but simply feels right.
If that isn't enough to make him the league's "most valuable" player, then I'm not sure we'll ever see a non-quarterback win this award again. Peterson's season was historic, both on a human interest side and professional side, and he deserves to win the 2012 NFL MVP.
Chances of Winning MVP: 46 Percent