Adrian Peterson has both a playoff spot and Eric Dickerson squarely in his sights.
Peterson’s amazing comeback season hit a new high Sunday when he ran over, around and through the St. Louis Rams for a season-high 212 yards and a TD in Minnesota’s 36-22 win that pulls the Vikings into a second-place tie with Chicago in the NFC North.
It also puts Peterson in an outside position to attack Dickerson’s 28-year-old NFL rushing record over the last two weeks of the schedule. Back in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams, Dickerson rambled for 2,105 yards to set the standard that has never been beaten. Peterson, a year after a devastating knee injury, has amassed 1,812 yards with two games remaining, needing 294 more yards to match Dickerson. So far, he’s averaged about 125 yards a game and would need to run for just under 150 yards in each of his final two games to set the record.
Of more urgency to the 8-6 Vikings, they need to finish with a flourish with wins over Houston and Green Bay to have a chance to get the NFC’s second wild card berth.
Peterson’s 82-yard TD romp broke a 7-7 tie early in the second quarter and touched off a frantic 23-point Minnesota scoring flurry before halftime. The Vikes scored 10 of their 23 points in the second quarter off turnovers by Sam Bradford, including a 29-yard interception return by defensive end Everson Griffen.
HE’S OUT OF LUCK
The surprisingly resilient Indianapolis Colts finally found a hill they couldn’t climb.
After winning three straight games and seven of eight, including six fourth-quarter comebacks, the Colts went into Houston, where the Texans had something to prove after being annihilated by New England last Monday. And prove it they did, with a thoroughly convincing 29-17 victory to go to 12-2 and wrap up their second consecutive AFC South title.
If the Patriots game was a litmus test for the Texans, then this one against Indianapolis was at least a statement that New England was just a bump in the road. They thoroughly manhandled the Colts, and were especially dominant on the defensive side of the ball.
They sacked Andrew Luck five times — including three by J.J. Watt — and the Colts’ rookie QB has now been sacked 15 times in the last three games. Watt also forced a fumble and made five tackles for net losses.
The Texans exerted their will, especially in the fourth quarter where Luck has shone so far this year. Houston took only a six-point lead into the final 15 minutes, but the Colts never advanced the ball beyond their own 45-yard line and were limited to three first downs, total.
The Colts still have a chance to make the playoffs but this game proved they still have much ground to make up before they’re in Houston’s class.
PACK ALMOST BLOWS IT
The Green Bay Packers tried to shoot themselves in the foot, but dodged that bullet on their way to clinching their second consecutive NFC North title Sunday, beating the Bears 21-13 at Soldier Field.
With the game in hand, leading 21-10 in the fourth quarter, somebody — either a coach or punt returner Randall Cobb — went brain-dead, as Cobb tried to throw a backward pass to rookie Jeremy Ross deep in the Packers zone. Ross couldn’t make the catch, Bears’ Anthony Walters recovered at the Green Bay 16 and set up a Chicago field goal that made the game a one-score affair. That’s where the score stayed but it was an unnecessary risk.
That aside, the Packers, after a 2-3 start, have won eight of their last nine to pull away from Chicago and Minnesota in the division, helped along by the injury-riddled Bears who have lost three in a row and five of their last six.
Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 36 passes for 291 yards and three TDs, all of them to James Jones. In his last four games against the Bears, Rodgers has thrown 12 TD passes and been intercepted just twice.
Clay Matthews made his return to the Packer defence after missing a month and had a pair of sacks and one knocked-down pass as the Bears limited Jay Cutler and Co., to just 190 total yards.
The Bears, who were at one time cruising along at 7-1 atop the division are now going to need to win twice on the road — at Arizona and at Detroit — to hold off the Vikings.
CHIEFS ON TARGET FOR TOP PICK
The Kansas City Chiefs remain one of the two teams to beat, so to speak, in the NFL’s Hunt For Number 1.
With their 12th loss in 14 games, the Chiefs remain tied with the equally inept Jacksonville Jaguars for the right to draft first in next spring’s draft.
The Oakland Raiders haven’t been able to win often, but they were plenty good enough to shut the hopeless Chiefs out by a score of 15-0.
Back in the day, a Kansas City-Oakland game was something akin to a Pittsburgh-Baltimore slugfest. Now it just amounts to who can score the most field goals. With Sebastian Janikowski on his game, the Raiders got five field goals, the Chiefs none.
Oakland’s defence totally smothered the Kansas City running attack and when that happens, the Chiefs are helpless.
They did not record their initial first down until about five minutes remained in the third quarter. Jamaal Charles carried the ball nine times for 10 yards, accounting for all the Kansas City yardage on the ground. Overall, the Chiefs managed just 119 yards of total offence, against 385 yards racked up by the Raiders.
Still, the Raiders couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone but Janikowski’s leg was more than weapon enough this day.
PACKERS HAVE LAST WORD
They’ve been sniping back and forth for a century, it seems, but the bottom line in the annual hate-fest between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers is that talk is cheap.
After winning their 12th consecutive divisional matchup, and fourth straight over the Bears, the Packers were rewarded with green hats that declare them NFC North champs.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall kicked off the war of words on Tuesday when he declared his disgust with Green Bay.
“I don’t like the Green Bay Packers,” Marshall said. “I’m not going to use the word hate, but I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players. But the talk, you have to back it up. We’ll go out there and we’ll do everything we need to do to get a win.”
Packers tight end Jermichael Finley responded by dismissing injured Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“Urlacher is at the end of his career right now; he’s playing a little slow out there,” Finley said, according to FoxSportsWisconsin.com. “I don’t think they’re losing too much if he’s out. Putting another guy (Nick Roach) in might help them a little.”
After Green Bay’ 21-13 win sealed the division title, veteran guard T.J. Lang had the last word.
“I’ve never been a fan of talking on Wednesdays or Thursdays or disrespecting opponents. It is what it is. We’ve beat them twice now this year. Swept them last year. It’s been a long time since they beat us, so they can talk all they want. That’s what it comes down to. We ultimately have the bragging rights.”