NEW ORLEANS -- Whether or not Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wins the Comeback Player of the Year award or not, his status as the league's newly-crowned Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year puts quite the exclamation point on a season few thought could possibly happen. Peterson suffered a knee injury in December of 2011 and underwent surgery soon after. His recovery was on the near-miraculous scale, and despite the "pitch count" Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said he'd put Peterson on to start the season, Peterson became the sixth player in NFL history to gain more than 2,000 yards on the ground.
Peterson is the first running back to win the MVP award since LaDanian Tomlinson took the title in 2006. He received 30.5 votes, while Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning nabbed 19.5 votes.
Perhaps most impressive about Peterson's season was the fact that he seemed to get better as the season rolled along. Of his 2,097 rushing yards, 1,322 came in the season's last eight games. He had just one game in which he rushed for under 100 yards in his final 10 games, and he exceeded the 200-yard mark in single games twice -- against the Green Bay Packers and the St. Louis Rams. He gained 99 yards on 20 carries against the Packers in a playoff loss despite the fact that backup quarterback Joe Webb replaced Christian Ponder, and the Packers were reading run on every single play.
In truth, Peterson had every defense reading run most of the time, which makes his season all the more impressive. Ponder, still adapting to the NFL in his second season, averaged 6.1 yards per attempt in the 2012 season. Peterson averaged 6.0 yards per carry. And the fact that the Vikings were in the playoffs one year after a 3-13 mark lends even more credence to how deserving he was.
At last week's Pro Bowl, Peterson predicted that he would win the MVP, which led to some good-natured ribbing between himself and Manning, who won Comeback Player of the Year.
"I'm going to win it. I will get it," Peterson said of the title.
"Everyone should play like Adrian Peterson," Manning responded around a group of players. "The guy does everything full speed. The Pro Bowl. Promoting himself for MVP."
Peterson was among a group cracking up at that.
"I thought it was funny, man," Peterson said. "Manning is always pulling somebody's chain. This time, he got me. That's just the way he is. And I have a ton of respect for him."
Respect for both players has certainly been earned, but it's Adrian Peterson who carried the day on Saturday. He did so just like he carries the ball and just like he carries his team -- with absolute authority.
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