by Eric Paolini
After the 14 point defeat to the Green Bay Packers Saturday night it is time to say goodbye to another Minnesota Vikings season. Although I can't say the sound beating that took place surprised me, it was not any easier to watch than any other playoff loss. For the most part I can think objectively about my favorite teams, the Vikings being my favorite NFL team, but there are times when that is not a possibility. As an eternal optimist for my collection of eternally disappointing favorite teams the playoff losses hurt even when they are expected. Mainly because that objectivity usually gets pushed aside.
It was tough to watch a surprising season end in such complete incompetence. Even if Christian Ponder had played instead of Joe Webb, I am not sure the result would be much different. I don't completely buy in to the sports cliché of "you can't win without the quarterback". Ponder's struggles, and Webb's struggles vs. the Packers, limited the ceiling of the 2012 Vikings. Ponder will also limit the ceiling of any future teams he is the starting quarterback of. As harsh as that sounds especially in regard to a second year player, watching him playing does not inspire confidence. The game that is pointed to for Ponder's ability (week 3 vs. San Francisco) still was just okay. His stats and performance don't jump out at you and make you take notice. Super Bowl teams need to have a competent quarterback at the very least. An elite defense and good to top level running game can make up for a middle of the road quarterback. Think 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers. The Vikings certainly have the running back.
The quarterback struggles make what Adrian Peterson did even more amazing, and special, and stupendous, and any other glowing adjective you can say about him. Peterson is my favorite Vikings hands down. This season wasn't the one that pushed him over the likes of Dante Culpepper and Randy Moss but it made any talk of Peterson not being the favorite player for fans in this era ludicrous. His achievement of rushing for 2,097 yards (second most in a season ever) and for doing it after tearing his ACL and MCL in December of 2011. Making it back to play in week one was astonishing enough. But then to have the greatest season ever for a running back makes it completely and utterly incomprehensible.
Let me attempt to put potential homerism aside and give a reasonable explanation why his season was better than Eric Dickerson's was in 1984 even though Dickerson rushed for more yards (2,105). Passing happens much more in today's NFL. (I know "today's NFL" is something Chris Berman would say, but it's succinct and accurate and it works, so there). Look at these stats comparing 1984 and 2012 for just a second.
3 teams passed for over 4,000 yards
14 teams rushed for over 2,000 yards
5 players rushed 320+ times
13 1,000 yard rushers
9 teams passed for over 4,000 yards
1 team rushed for over 2,000 yards
3 players rushed 320+ times
16 1,000 yard rushers
While individual rushing is still pretty much the same, 1984 was much more of a rushing era. And as impressive as it was that Dickerson did it in his second professional season, I still say less than a year removed from MAJOR knee surgery is more impressive.
Regardless of whether Dickerson or Peterson had the better season doesn't really matter. But 2,097 will be remembered along with 296 and likely 18,356 as records Peterson will take down (if Peterson can play at a similar level for another 6-8 years). Those records will always be remembered. And as a fan of an often overlooked franchise those records seem even more important. It is a truly special experience to watch the league's current best running back who will certainly go down as one of the greatest running backs in history.
There is only one potential downside to Adrian Peterson's 2,000+ rushing yards. And that is a new nickname. Right after he crossed the 2K threshold Adam Schefter called him AP2K and AD2K. Besides the initial number nickname gimmick becoming a plague in sports nicknames, the real issue is how it forces aside a great nickname. Since coming into the league Peterson has been known as "All Day" or "AD" for short. All Day truly describes the way Peterson plays. I have also referred to him as Mr. Peterson in an attempt to show utmost respect. But to lump Peterson along with the collection of lazy nicknamed athletes like CP3, CB4, CJ2K, LBJ, MJD, etc. You can even include celebrity nickname laziness as well with JLO, JLAW (which I unfortunately saw Jennifer Lawrence called today), and K-STEW. Although I haven't seen Peterson called AD2K since Schefter's tweet this is a proactive attempt to stop this nonsense.
Although the 7 win improvement was unexpected and exciting it should not stop the Vikings from addressing their offensive issues (minus Peterson). When Percy Harvin is on the field he is electrifying and one of the most exciting receivers in the league. But that hasn't been a sure thing in the beginning of his career. Plus he may want out of Minnesota. After Harvin the Vikings don't really have any other receiving weapons. Kyle Rudolph at tight end has been a favorite target of Ponder and rookie Jarius Wright has made some plays in recent weeks. But I think getting another consistent weapon at receiver should be a top priority this offseason. As well as quarterback. Ponder has shown his ability in a season and a half or so. And that ability is not good enough to be the starting quarterback for the next 10 years. I don't know how much of a possibility it is but Alex Smith is a name I find interesting for the Vikes. Veteran quarterback who is meant for a running/defense mindset type of team. Low upside but interesting nonetheless.
As with anything expectations are extremely influential. The Vikings outperforming any reasonable expectations I could have had made this season ultimately very enjoyable. Moving forward there are questions that need to be addressed but the future sure seems bright
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