Adrian Peterson was somehow still producing in the NFL 13 years after his debut in 2007. That is an extremely long career considering the often short shelf life of an NFL running back. Before he was one of the greatest of all time, though, he was a young upstart running back who broke a single-game record against the Chargers.
Let’s rewind the clock back to November 4, 2011. Then a 22-year-old rookie, Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings hosted LaDainian Tomlinson and the 4-3 San Diego Chargers. Tomlinson was fresh off of one of the greatest seasons of all-time in which he was named league MVP and broke the single-season rushing touchdown record.
The seventh-overall pick was already well-accustomed to the NFL with several big games before this Week 9 matchup. None of which were quite as big, though, as Peterson carried the ball 30 times for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged just shy of 10 yards per carry and to this day it is the most rushing yards a running back has ever had in a single game.
And despite him not playing on the defensive side of the ball, the blame for this huge game has now been put on LaDainian Tomlinson, courtesy of Adrian Peterson himself.
You know what they say: iron sharpens iron and Tomlinson definitely did help Peterson have a monster game, although he may have sharpened him a bit too much.
Tomlinson had an okay game. He carried the ball 16 times for 40 yards and one rushing touchdown while catching six passes for 37 yards. It was nothing in comparison to what Peterson did. Tomlinson’s single-game career-high was 243 yards in 2003 against the Raiders.
Adrian Peterson became the torch-bearer as LaDainian Tomlinson’s play diminished for the Chargers.
The timing of Peterson’s career and Tomlinson’s career are really interesting. Tomlinson had his best year in 2006, was still an All-Pro in 2007 and then took a step down in 2008. He still rushed for over 1,000 yards, but it was the start of the decline for LT.
He was off of the Chargers after the 2009 season and out of the league after the 2011 season, playing until he was only 32; three years younger than Peterson currently is.
Peterson took over the reins of being the best running back in the league as LT regressed. He was a Pro Bowler in 2007, an All-Pro in 2008 and 2009 and almost broke his own record similar to LT’s touchdown record in 2006. In 2012, Peterson finished eight yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing yards record.
Like Tomlinson in 2006, Peterson was named the league MVP that season. He was 27 years old, the same age LT was in 2006. It was his sixth year in the league, the same as Tomlinson in 2006.
For over a decade football fans were spoiled with two of the greatest running backs of all time. It started with LT and the torch was then passed to Peterson. And since Peterson’s dominance, there has not been a running back that has consistently been the best in the league over a multiple-year span.
Perhaps those days are over. Maybe we will never see a running back MVP again.
Peterson has passed Tomlinson on the all-time rushing yards list, currently having more than 1,000 career rushing yards than LT. Tomlinson still has 27 more rushing touchdowns and more yards from scrimmage, though.