Adrian Peterson Already Back to Being Best Running Back in Football Less Than a Year After Tearing ACL

Tearing an ACL used to be as good as a death sentence for NFL players, especially running backs. But the advancements in medicine and rehabilitation methods have significantly altered that reality over the past decade or so. Now, the once career-ending injury is merely a hiatus for players.

Adrian Peterson suffered that fate during a Week 16 game in Washington last season. The injury was brutal at the time and had skeptics wondering if the All-Pro running back would ever be the same again.

But Peterson has not only returned to his pre-injury form — he’s also gotten better.

Through 10 games, Peterson has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau — he has 1,128 yards — and is having arguably the best season of his career.

Peterson has now gained 1,000 or more yards in five of his six NFL seasons, the lone exception being the injury-shortened 2011, which saw him appear in just 12 games. But while 1,760 yards and 10 touchdowns made 2008 his breakout season, 2012 is quickly turning into his masterpiece.

After running for more than 100 yards just once in his first six games, Peterson has turned on the juice in recent weeks. The youthful 27-year-old tailback has put together four consecutive 100-yard games, including three of more than 150 yards.

While leading the NFL in rushing yards is a feat in and of itself, Peterson also leads the league with 13 runs of 20-plus yards — six more than his next closest competitor. And if breaking off 20-yard runs just doesn’t do it for you anymore, Peterson has also recorded a 60-plus yard run in each of his past three games, too.

The burst is clearly back. Peterson’s cuts are as quick and violent as ever. He is simply running with more aggression than we’ve seen from any tailback in recent memory. Sorry, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk and others, but AP is on a whole different level right now.

Peterson’s fiery resurgence hasn’t just returned him to his place firmly atop the NFL’s running back pyramid. He’s also instilled life back into a Vikings team that was essentially unresponsive in a 4-12 campaign last season.

Quarterback Christian Ponder has excelled with Peterson by his side, raising his completion percentage from 54 percent in 2011 to above 65 percent this season. He’s also thrown 12 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, compared to the 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions he tossed a year ago.

Clearly, Peterson has alleviated a lot of the pressure the second-year signal caller likely felt coming off of a mediocre rookie season. But Peterson has also helped the Vikings turn their season around as well.

With a revitalized Peterson leading the way, the Vikings have rebounded with a 6-4 record this season and are looking to march to a playoff spot after their upcoming bye week.

The road ahead will be quite the challenge, as Minnesota’s final six opponents include a trio of contenders, with two games against the division-leading Chicago Bears, two against the Green Bay Packers and one against the Houston Texans. But with the best running back in football leading the way, the Vikings at least have a fighting chance.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

NFL Trendsetters
1
49ers/Rams

Ties don’t happen in football, right? Well, Danny Amendola certainly didn’t realize that could happen, and any self-respecting football fan should be up in arms over the virtue of a tie even taking place. The Rams and 49ers blew opportunity after opportunity, and bad shanks off the feet of both David Akers and Greg Zuerlein further disgraced the game. The worst part of all was the delay of game penalty on what should have been Zuerlein’s 53-yard game-winner. Instead, he missed from 58 yards out. A great game decided by an awful result. Let’s ban ties from the NFL, starting … now!

2
Baltimore Ravens

Whoever said the Ravens were finished this season clearly doesn’t know football. (I’ll turn myself in at the station soon.) Baltimore crushed the Raiders in all three facets of the game Sunday, running off 55 points on the afternoon and even seeing punter Sam Koch run in a score just for effect, and probably some fun. The blowout helped reestablish the Ravens following a couple of stinkers in Houston and Cleveland — even though they beat the Browns. The 55 points are a sign the offense isn’t going anywhere, and the three sacks and pair of forced turnovers just further cement that the defense is still strong even without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb.

3
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets

When Antonio Cromartie claimed the Jets would still make the playoffs, he must have had a momentary lapse and forgot who his quarterback was. Mark Sanchez was atrocious yet again Sunday, completing just 9 of 22 passes and turning the ball over twice as the Seahawks trounced the Jets 28-7. With so much controversy surrounding the Jets already this season, it may be time for Rex Ryan to kick Sanchez to the curb and kick the tires on Tim Tebow. It could very well save Ryan’s job, because Sanchez certainly hasn’t done him any favors.

4
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

The Cowboys won a game. Can you believe it? What’s more, Tony Romo even went an entire game without a turnover. I mean, Cowboys fans must just be utterly elated. Romo, who is a fairly precise passer typically, continued his trend of efficiency, completing 19 of 26 passes for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The performance marks the first time all season that Romo has thrown more than one touchdown without turning the ball over. Dallas, rejoice — this could be the start of something good. Or maybe it’s just the exception to the rule. Either way, enjoy it while you can.

5
Chicago Bears

This week’s Sunday night game was a brutal one to watch. Both defenses were great, but there was far too much ugly offense going around. The Bears lost the game 13-6, but the biggest loss of the night was that of Jay Cutler to a concussion. Cutler, who threw two picks before heading off, got licked a couple times and apparently was feeling the effects during the game. His absence didn’t change much for Chicago against the Texans, but it could become a much bigger problem if he needs to miss extended time. Remember how the Bears imploded without Cutler last season, going 1-5 over the final six games to finish the season 8-8? That can’t happen again.

6
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles

If the Bears had bad luck losing Cutler, then Michael Vick must have no luck at all. After finally seeming to figure things out at the start of the game in Dallas, Vick took a big shot to the head and suffered a concussion of his own. Now, it looks like rookie Nick Foles will be getting a shot at the starting job, which could mean the end of Vick in Philly. Hopefully he’s all right and his season isn’t finished, as reports seem to indicate.

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