"Nine yards what?"
Adrian Peterson didn't know. The man who carried the Minnesota Vikings to a playoff berth didn't know how close he had come to breaking Eric Dickerson's NFL single-season rushing record until Fox Sports reporter Pam Oliver told him during a postgame interview.
Peterson finished the Vikings' 37-34 win over the Green Bay Packers with 199 yards and one touchdown, but he finished the season with 2,097 rushing yards. The ultimate workhorse carried the ball 34 times in the game that extended Minnesota's season.
"Ultimately we got the 'W,'" Peterson said after the game, via The Associated Press. "We said during the week, if (the record) happens, it happens. Don't focus on it."
Peterson underwent surgery on the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee exactly one year to the day before his monster game against the Packers. His 2012 season will be remembered by everyone old enough to watch it. Sunday's performance is the type of game you'll tell your grandchildren about, without needing to embellish it one bit.
"I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that's winning," Peterson said. "(Breaking the record) wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does. But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs."
Peterson somehow returned from surgery a better runner. His vision and toughness are better than ever. He dragged an awful Vikings passing game and a so-so defense all the way to the playoffs.
That's better than a record. And it should be enough for Peterson to win NFL MVP.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.