There is no greater compliment that could be paid to an athlete than the one Cleveland Browns' defensive back D'Qwell Jackson paid Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson.
Peterson aims to be untouchable
There is no greater compliment that could be paid to an athlete than the one Cleveland Browns' defensive back D'Qwell Jackson paid Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson on Sunday. "He's a guy who lives up to the hype," Jackson said. Peterson had just run over Jackson and his teammates for 180 yards and three touchdowns in Minnesota's season-opening 34-20 victory. In this day of hype, to live up to what is said about you if you are as high profile an athlete as Petersen, then that is saying something indeed.
Yet the larger statement was made on the field, as it should be, during a 64-yard fourth quarter touchdown run in which Peterson ploughed over or ran around five different tacklers. It was the kind of run highlight reels are made of, the kind that reminded you of the greatest running back Jim Brown. It is heresy to compare anyone to Brown, of course, but be that as it may, Peterson is at least the best running back in the NFL. He is also the reason the Vikings are pre-season favourites to reach the Super Bowl despite the hype that insists it is about Brett Favre in Minnesota this season.
Peterson made that obvious when he came back from a 25-yard first half in which he had to be removed from the game at one point after suffering a deep cut in his left arm. Whatever he was feeling, the Browns were feeling sick by the time Peterson - who led the NFL in rushing a year ago and seems primed to do it again - had finished with them. "This guy's an animal out there," said Vikings' Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams.
That is why Favre's job at 40 years old will be a lot easier than in the days when he was carrying the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowl appearances, one of which they won. It was a fact Favre himself acknowledged after seeing his new team win on an afternoon when he threw for only 110 yards. "I haven't played with an offence like this," Favre said. "It's a special running game and it starts with No 28 [Petersen]. That guy is pretty awesome.
"It wasn't a 400-yard passing game but it didn't have to be. Handing it to Adrian helps. I haven't ever played with a runner like that." Few other quarterbacks have and none are going to this year, including San Diego's Philip Rivers, who hands off to LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is one of the great backs of his time but at 30 years old it seems the torch has been passed and it is Peterson who has picked it up and, fittingly, run with it.
"He's the epitome of what football is," said Petersen's teammate, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Peterson is a freakish combination of speed and power, who showed on that 64-yard run all he can do. He faked poor Brodney Pool to the ground, making him miss him entirely as he dived helplessly at legs that had disappeared. Then he turned upfield and broke several tackles before stiff arming Eric Wright to the ground, delivering a blow that would have made Mike Tyson proud. If there was anything else he could have done on that play only Peterson knew what.
"It was pretty good. The only thing I did wrong was I didn't go untouched," Peterson said. By the end of the season that may be the only measuring stick. Not how many yards he gains, which will be many unless he is injured, not how many tackles, he breaks, which will also be many. Not even how far he carries Favre and the Vikings, which will be far if not all the way to the Super Bowl. Maybe the only measuring stick left by season's end will be only that - can anybody touch him?