For the first time in my life while watching a sporting event, time slowed.
On the final offensive play of Sunday’s Minnesota-Green Bay game, when Adrian Peterson took his final handoff of the regular season – needing 35 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record – the game went into slow motion.
Despite falling nine yards short of the 2,105 yards needed to become the new rushing king of the NFL, Peterson’s final attempt on Sunday couldn’t have been scripted any better.
Most fans, including myself, assumed that A.P. would take the ball between the tackles, power through the line for two, three, or maybe four yards, and then a Blair Walsh field goal would send the Vikings into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
But we all forgot who we were watching on Sunday evening.
Rather than being content with a three-yard gain and centering the ball in the middle of the field to make his kicker’s job easier, Peterson took the ball from Christian Ponder and had us all holding our breath. As he headed to the left side of the field towards a host of Packers defenders, again we all thought “that’s it.”
Again, we forgot who we were watching.
When he cut back, eluding defenders on his surgically repaired knee, we all screamed the same thing: “GO!”
And when Peterson’s body finally came to the ground at the 11-yard-line, everyone watching that game, a little short of breath from the surprising sprint we just witnessed, uttered the words, “Oh man.”
Though Packer faithful were wanting their cheeseheads to pull through, as fans of the game I believe even they were disappointed not to see A.P. end up in the end zone on that final play. For a moment, even if they didn’t realize it at the time, the loyal and proud fans of Green Bay were hoping to witness something special.
As the game’s final minutes dwindled away, most fans watching the game had already come to terms with the fact that Peterson wasn’t going to break the record. There just wasn’t enough time to do it.
While that hypothesis stood true in the end, Peterson gave us a show and changed our thought process, if only for a few seconds.
Even though he was less than a first down from eclipsing Dickerson’s record for the season rushing record, Peterson’s 2012 season concluded the way it was supposed to, with excitement.
Too often, when we witness a record being broken, particularly in the NFL, it comes on some irrelevant play late in the game when the outcome has already been decided. Peterson’s run, had it broken a record that has stood for nearly three decades and sent Minnesota the playoffs, would have been something only Hollywood’s best script-writer could imagine.
No, Dickerson’s record wasn’t broken on Sunday, but it doesn’t take away from all the things Peterson and the Vikings accomplished this season, and Sunday’s final run against Green Bay summed up the year Peterson has enjoyed.
2,097 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a post-season appearance is nothing short of an incredible season. His final run was nothing short of incredible, either.
I know it may be a while before we see Dickerson’s record broken, but that 26-yard run by one of the NFL’s greatest running backs of all-time is something I will remember for a long time.
And I will remember it the way I watched it….in slow motion.