Your Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson arguments are legitimate, yet still wayward. And your Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers arguments are cute. Funny, and cute.
After what we saw today and what we saw all season, there’s no conceivable way that Adrian Peterson isn’t the NFL’s most valuable player this year. Not after he came within nine yards of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, a mark of 2,105 yards that’s stood since 1984. And not after his 199 yards today made him one of just seven running backs in league history to accumulate more than 2,000 yards on the ground in a season.
But what’s more remarkable than those records are the circumstances in which Peterson had to play. For much of the year he was the sole offensive playmaker on a team that had to beat the Packers today to earn a playoff spot. Even though everyone at every defensive position and in every stadium seat knew the ball was going into Peterson’s gut far more often than it didn’t (he attempted a season high 34 runs today, one of just two times his carry total went higher than 30) he still busted out for long runs of 20 and 28 yards while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
If you didn’t hear it every game or if I wasn’t bound by blogger law to write it in every post, while watching Peterson it would be easy to forget that he’s just over a year removed from shredding apart his knee. That may be his greatest accomplishment.
He’s made us forget.
Consider, though, exactly what Peterson has worked with all season, especially after Percy Harvin’s injury (he’s been out since Week 10, and is on the injured reserve with an ankle injury). In Harvin the Vikings lost a versatile athlete both as a receiver, a position where he was averaging 75.9 yards per game, but also as a kick returner, with his speed leading to a 105-yard touchdown return earlier this year.
There was no true deep threat beyond him between Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, and Michael Jenkins. But that probably didn’t matter, because to catch a deep ball someone else needs to throw it a fair distance. Christian Ponder can’t do that, ever.
Early this season Ponder was completing 90 percent of his passes behind the line of scrimmage, and he rarely even attempted a pass that traveled through the air 30 yards or more. Overall Ponder finished the regular season averaging six yards per pass attempt, a full yard below what’s commonly considered average. That per attempt average dropped below 5.5 eight times this year, and Ponder’s passer rating also fell below 60.0 five times, three of which came after Harvin’s injury.
Oh yeah, and this: Ponder had three games with less than 100 passing yards, and overall he averaged just 183.4 yards weekly.
So keep in mind that value part of the most valuable player, and tell me again who meant the most to his team during a season when the Vikings advanced to the playoffs despite utter incompetence elsewhere on their offense.
Pey Pey is a great story too after his own comeback from a severe injury, but he has the support of Willis McGahee/Knownshon Moreno, along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, two receivers who had +1,000 yards through the air. During a six-game playoff push following the Vikings’ Week 11 bye that featured four wins and Peterson averaging 161.5 yards per game, there was one source of offense. Adrian Peterson.
How’s that for value?