This was Adrian Peterson’s year.
Peterson — the rightful recipient of the 2012 MVP — proved he is not a human, but a robot. On Dec. 24, 2011, AP tore his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament, marking the first time in his five-year career he would not rush for 1,000 yards. Eight months later, it was doubtful Peterson would play in the 2012 season opener. Despite still feeling discomfort, Peterson played in Week 1 and rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t stop there, finishing with 2,097 rushing yards, second most of all time and nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s record. Most importantly, he carried the Vikings into the playoffs, improving their record from 3-13 to 10-6. It takes a closer look at statistics to realize how remarkable Peterson’s season truly was.
Behind an average Vikings line that allowed the 22nd most sacks in the NFL, Peterson gained 1,019 yards after contact. Let that sink in for the second: That number alone would give Peterson the 16th most rushing yards in the league, ahead of such notable running backs as Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael “No Burner” Turner and Trent Richardson — the second closest was Doug Martin with 683.
Teams would try and stack up to eight players in the box as the lack of a vertical threat, 171.9 passing yards per game, left the Vikings one dimensional. It didn’t matter. Peterson truly ran all day. He finished averaging 131.1 yards per game, had seven games with over 150 yards and was the first to average 6.0 yards per carry since Barry Sanders in 1997. His season will go down in the history books, but it won’t be his last.
The season also marked the return of the rookie. As the top pick was debated between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, the season proved to have up to 10 superstars that changed their franchises in their first season alone. Everybody knows about the three quarterbacks, but the most surprising rookie contributor is the sixth round, 173rd overall pick, 5-foot-9-inch, 218-pound bruiser from Florida Atlantic.
Alfred Morris, or “the butler,” was described on NFL.com’s draft analysis as “not big enough to be imposing at the next level,” and “carries free-agent value.” Whoops. Not only did Morris contribute second most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,613 and 13 touchdowns, he changed the Redskins’ offense. The now-coveted pistol offense was successful because of Morris’s ability to go north and south. Utilizing Griffin’s exceptional ball skills, defense would be sucked into the middle of the field allowing Griffin to break his large gainers to the outside and toast defenses with the backside post on play-action. Morris was the most underrated player in the NFL this season and will be a nightmare for the NFC East for years to come.
Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson were talked about more than Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend, and rightfully so. Griffin finished with 27 total touchdowns — 20 throwing, seven rushing — 4,015 total yards and most impressively a 102.4 QB rating en route to collecting Offensive Rookie of the Year. Luck set the NFL rookie record for passing yards, throwing for a gaudy 4,374 yards and bringing the Colts from the worst team in football to 11-5 and a playoff team. But the top rookie in my eyes was Wilson.
It seemed weird how much Pete Carroll obsessed over the No. 75 overall pick, who was deemed too small to play the QB position at 5 feet-11 inches — Drew Brees is 6-feet tall — and Matt Flynn sat on the bench collecting his 19.5 million dollar contract.
Yet Wilson had the poise of a 10 -year veteran seemingly improving every game and leading the Seahawks to the divisional round of the playoffs before being knocked out on the road to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-28. Wilson finished the season with 26 touchdowns and only ten interceptions, 3,118 yards and a 100.0 QB rating.
His intangibles were what set him apart. Wilson always made the right throw, made quick reads and was a true leader in Seattle. The Seahawks were the best team in the league at the end of the season.
There were many others that dominated the field in 2012. Calvin Johnson broke the all-time receiving record with 1,964 yards and proved that we have never seen a better NFL body than Megatron. J.J. Watt played the defensive end arguably better than anybody in history, collecting his first Defensive MVP award earning 49 of 50 first-place votes and led the league with 20.5 sacks after Aldon Smith went sackless for the last three games of the season.
On a side note, Watt is a villain to me now after he spit on the Patriots’ logo in pre-game.
Panthers linebacker and Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly tackled everything, leading the league with 164 tackles. Did anybody know that?
And the old quarterbacks can still get it done. Peyton Manning returned from neck surgery to win comeback player of the year and toss for 4,659 and 37 touchdowns. Brees led the league in passing once again with 5,177 yards, despite playing without coach Sean Payton, and Brady brought the Patriots back to the conference championship after throwing for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns to only eight interceptions.