Is Adrian Peterson Having the Greatest Comeback Season in NFL History?

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2012

Adrian Peterson's return from ACL surgery is unprecedented.
Adrian Peterson's return from ACL surgery is unprecedented.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Forget about giving the Comeback Player of the Year honor to Peyton Manning—the NFL should name the award after Adrian Peterson.

The Minnesota Vikings running back has defied all odds in less than a year’s time since tearing his ACL and MCL on Christmas Eve in 2011. 

Just three days later, the Vikings told the public that they expected the star rusher to return in time to start the 2012 season, effectively missing one game due to the devastating injury. The overwhelming response to that was essentially as follows:

"You can’t be serious. We all know that you’re going to be optimistic, but the beginning of the 2012 season? Come on, now. Did you see what happened to his knee?"

After seeing Peterson’s visceral reaction to shredding the ligaments in his knee, we expected that he might not be effective in 2012. We assumed the violent runner may never be the same post-injury.

Twelve months later, it’s clear that he isn’t the same—he’s better, just like he said he would be.

Now, A.P. is leading all other running backs by an absolutely absurd 433 rushing yards through 14 games. Peterson’s 1,812 yards in 2012 place him 188 away from the coveted 2,000-yard mark and just 293 rushing yards behind Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 with two games to go.

Adrian Peterson is 294 Rush Yds from breaking Eric Dickerson's record. Check out the elite company he's already joined: es.pn/T1lqck

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 17, 2012

He would have to average 147 yards over his final two contests to break Dickerson’s record: a mark that Dickerson would like to keep for himself or his own son. But unless Dickerson is going to be a 12th man for the Houston Texans (Week 16) or Green Bay Packers (Week 17), he may just have to deal with it—because 11 guys aren’t cutting it.

Over 16 games, Peterson is on pace for 2,070 yards. However, that pace is ignoring the fact that he’s been improving by the week. His first six efforts yielded just one 100-yard day. Since, he’s rattled off eight straight 100-yard games. He’s topped 147 yards in six of his last eight. He’s run for 210 or more in two of his last three.

That record is in serious danger.

What’s even more impressive is that his 8-6 Vikings have needed just about every yard to stay in the playoff hunt. Without Peterson, Minnesota’s postseason hopes would have been gone a long time ago. He’s the only running back in the league with legitimate MVP candidacy, and could take home that award along with Comeback POY honors.  

Just ask Dickerson.