— When Adrian Peterson lay prone on the Washington turf last December with a shredded left knee, even his most ardent supporters would have had trouble believing he would reclaim his standing as the NFL's best running back just 10 months later.
His remarkable return to prominence has been one of the feel-good stories of the season. It's also shaking the very foundation of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive philosophy, and one of the longest-held tenets in football: that success on the ground will open things up in the passing game.
Peterson is getting better and better every time he steps on the field this season, more closely resembling the powerful cutback runner he was before tearing two ligaments against the Redskins late last season. It's been an incredible recovery, punctuated by three straight 100-yard games, including a breath-taking 144 in the first half alone last week against Seattle.
He finished with 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks, following up a 123-yard effort against Tampa Bay and 153 against the Arizona Cardinals. He leads the NFL with 957 yards rushing and 1,107 yards from scrimmage, accounting for nearly 37 percent of the Vikings' total offense.
For decades, the belief in the NFL has been that a successful run game will set up big gains down the field by getting safeties to creep up closer to the line of scrimmage and create one-on-one matchups outside. Even in this day and age of pass-happy offenses, the Vikings have stayed committed to that approach.
While Peterson has run better and better each week, the pass offense has been stuck in a downward spiral over the last three weeks. Christian Ponder threw for 58 yards against Arizona, was able to pad his stats in garbage time against Tampa Bay, then managed just 63 yards in the loss at Seattle.