November 4, 2009

2007: Adrian Peterson Runs for 296 Yards Against Chargers

Running back Adrian Peterson wasted no time in making an impact as a rookie for the Minnesota Vikings in 2007. In his first seven games, he carried the ball 128 times for 740 yards (a 5.8- yard average gain) and five touchdowns. He had gone over the 200-yard mark once (224 on 20 rushes at Chicago) and had reached one hundred yards in four games.

In the November 4 matchup against the San Diego Chargers at home in the Metrodome, Peterson went a significant step further as he rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards on 30 carries.

For all of Peterson’s heroics, the rebuilding Vikings came into the game at 2-5 while the Chargers sported a 4-3 record and were tied with Kansas City atop the AFC West. Peterson had a relatively quiet first half, carrying 13 times for 43 yards and a one yard TD. The biggest (and last) play of the half had been turned in by San Diego when CB Antonio Cromartie leaped near the back of the end zone to grab a missed 57 yard field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell and returned it 109 yards for the longest play in league history, which staked the Chargers to a 14-7 halftime lead.

On the opening drive of the second half, Peterson responded with a 64-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 14-14. On the next two series, he gained 89 yards on 9 carries, setting up the Vikings go-ahead touchdown but also fumbling the ball away as CB Drayton Florence recovered for the Chargers. Minnesota forced a punt, after which Peterson made up for the turnover by racing 46 yards for a score that put the Vikings decisively in front, 28-17.

With a total of 253 yards in the second half, including 146 in the fourth quarter alone, Peterson passed the single-game rushing record set by Ravens RB Jamal Lewis in 2003 by a yard. The Vikings ended up winning handily, 35-17, on the way to an 8-8 final record and second place in the NFC North. The Chargers recovered to win the AFC West at 11-5, advancing to the AFC Championship game.

Adrian Peterson wound up with 1341 yards rushing on 238 carries with 12 TDs. He was selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press and went to the Pro Bowl. Peterson missed two games due to a knee injury and found himself facing eight- and nine-man fronts when he came back (opponents feared him more than Minnesota’s mediocre passing game); as a result, he had just one more hundred-yard performance in ‘07. But he also set the tone for a career that is still a work in progress.