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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson first made a lot of news this season when he came back from knee surgery and performed much better than anyone (except for maybe Peterson himself) had expected.
Peterson last season became the seventh runner in NFL history to gain 2,000-plus yards (he gained 2,097) and fell nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time record for most rushing yards in a season. “AP” did win his second rushing title in 2012; his first was in 2008 when he outdistanced Atlanta’s Michael Turner by a mere 61 yards for that year’s rushing crown.
What makes Peterson’s rushing title last season interesting is that unlike his narrow win in 2008, this 2012 rushing title was no contest. Peterson’s 2,097 yards was 484 yards more than runner-up, Washington Redskins’ rookie Alfred Morris. It was the fifth largest margin for a rushing title since 1970 (the NFL-AFL merger).
Here’s a look at the 10 rushing titles that were won by 300 or more yards since 1970. Topping the list is O.J. Simpson, who in 1973 gained 2,003 yards, 859 more than his closest competitor, Green Bay’s John Brockington.
Yards difference (Year), Rushing Leader (yards), Runner-Up (yards)
859 (1973) O.J. Simpson (2,003), John Brockington (1,144)
590 (2009) Chris Johnson (2,006), Steven Jackson (1,416)
579 (1977) Walter Payton (1,852), Mark Van Eeghen (1,273)
571 (1975) O.J. Simpson (1,817), Franco Harris (1,246)
484 (2012) Adrian Peterson (2,097), Alfred Morris (1,613)
474 (1980) Earl Campbell (1,934), Walter Payton (1,460)
421 (1984) Eric Dickerson (2,105), Walter Payton (1,684)
338 (1994) Barry Sanders (1,883), Chris Warren (1,545)
305 (1986) Eric Dickerson (1,821), Joe Morris (1,516)
303 (1997) Barry Sanders (2,053), Terrell Davis (1,750)
- Peterson became the first of the seven men who reached the 2,000 yards rushing mark to do so after having less than 1,000 yards gained the previous season. In 2011, Peterson had 970 yards rushing, but he did miss the final four games of the season because of his knee injury.
- It will be interesting to see how well Peterson performs after his 2,000-yard season this past year. Of the previous six men who had a 2,000-yard season, all of them had fewer yards the following season. In fact, all six of them had at least a decline of 562 yards or more the next season. Terrell Davis had the biggest decline, going from 2,008 in 1998 to only 211 yards the following season (he was sidelined by a right knee injury). Jamal Lewis went from 2,066 yards in 2003 to 1,006 the next year, a decline of 1,060 yards. Barry Sanders had the “best next year” of the 2,000-yard rushers; he went from 2,053 in 1997 to 1,491 the following season (a decline of “only” 562 yards).
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Two running backs last weekend joined the list of players who gained 100 or more yards rushing in an NFL playoff game. On Saturday, Houston’s Arian Foster gained 153 yards in the Texans win over Cincinnati; on Sunday, Pittsburgh’s Isaac Redman had 121 yards rushing in the Steelers loss to Denver.
Following are the players who had 100 or more yards rushing in three or more NFL playoff games (since 1960).
Games with 100 or more yards rushing
7 Terrell Davis, Emmitt Smith
6 John Riggins, Thurman Thomas
5 Marcus Allen, Franco Harris
4 Larry Csonka, Chuck Foreman
Did you know…
* There have been 122 different players who have gained 100 or more yards in an NFL playoff game.
* There have been 198 times when a player has gained 100 or more yards rushing in a playoff game. Teams have won 161 and lost 37 (a .813 winning percentage) when they have had a player gain 100 or more yards in a playoff game.
* Eric Dickerson holds the playoff record with 248 yards gained in a postseason contest against the Dallas Cowboys on January 4, 1986.
* Seven different players have gained 200 or more yards in a playoff game.
* Michael Vick has the fewest carries to reach 100+ yards in a playoff game with eight. He did this with the Atlanta Falcons in a January 15, 2005 contest against the St. Louis Rams.