Adrian Peterson is easily the best and most dynamic running back in the NFL, and he fell just nine yards short of breaking the single-season rushing record held by Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, but the Minnesota Vikings held off the hard-charging Green Bay Packers, 37-34, last Sunday afternoon at Mall of America Field.
While all eyes were glued on Peterson, the one-time Oklahoma University star who rushed for a game-best 199 yards on a career-high 34 carries, it was Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal with no time left that sealed the victory as the Vikings qualified for the playoffs.
Though Dickerson’s 2,105 yards for the Los Angeles Rams in 1984 is still safe, Peterson came close.
“Right now I don’t have the words to express how I feel,’’ said the 27-year-old Peterson, who is 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds and is coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. “My main focus was for us to get the win. I’m glad we have another game next week.”
Peterson’s two-yard reception from quarterback Christian Ponder with four minutes left in the third quarter followed quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ fumble and capped a 50-yard, nine-play march that gave the Vikings (10-6) a 27-17 lead.
Walsh’s 54-yard boot made it 3-0 with 10:47 showing in the first quarter, and Peterson’s seven-yard scamper with 5:44 remaining in the same quarter pushed the Vikings’ lead to 10-0.
It became 13-0 when Walsh hammered home a 37-yard kick early in the second quarter.
Rodgers (28 of 40 for 365 yards) then took matters into his own hands and found wide receiver Greg Jennings (eight receptions for a game-best 120 yards) on a three-yard strike and 4:01 left in the second quarter that sliced the lead to 13-7.
Coming in, some questioned whether the youthful Ponder could keep up with the veteran Rodgers, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player last season, but he did.
Ponder, who was sacked only once by the Packers (11-5), finished 16 of 28 for 234 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Ponder’s eight-yard toss to wide receiver Jarius Wright (90 yards on three catches) and 1:07 left in the second quarter supplied Minnesota (444 total net yards) with a 20-7 lead, only to see Mason Crosby nail a 51-yard field goal as the clock expired before halftime as the Packers cut the lead to 20-10.
A one-time Super Bowl MVP, Rodgers, who was sacked five times without a pick, advanced the Packers on an 80-yard, six-play drive to open the second half and located Jennings with a five-yard bullet and 11:56 left that made it 20-17.
The Packers (405 total yards) came within 27-24 as Rodgers moved his club 72 yards on four plays and closed the drive with an eight-yard toss to wide receiver James Jones (six receptions and 62 yards) as 2:04 remained in the third quarter.
Crosby’s 40-yard kick with 12:21 showing in the fourth quarter tied it at 27-27, but not before Ponder’s three-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins (37 yards on three catches) gave the Vikings a 34-27 lead and 7:54 left in the final quarter.
Rodgers tied it at 34-34 when he drove Green Bay on an 11-play, 78-yard drive and hit wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87 yards and three receptions) with a two-yard pass as 2:54 remained.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.