PRO BOWL 2008
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for 129 yards on 16 carries in yesterday's Pro Bowl. He scored twice, including the game's final score.
Peterson caps great season
There's nothing quite like a young pair of legs in the NFL.
Adrian Peterson burst on the scene this season and his fresh 22-year-old legs led to 1,341 rushing yards and the promise of future greatness.
The Vikings rookie didn't taste the playoffs, and instead settled for consolation prizes that weren't too bad -- the Pro Bowl MVP trophy and a new red Cadillac -- yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
NFL fans were treated to a dazzling display of Peterson's running yesterday. He got to the outside. He went inside. He went around people and through some others. All told, he piled up 129 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.
"Can I top this year? Oh yeah," Peterson said moments before checking out the shine on the new car by buffing it with his game towel. "There's always room for improvement."
Later, in the locker room, he was asked if 2,000 yards were possible next season.
"Oh yeah," he said again, with force.
It's not often a running back shines in the Pro Bowl. Chuck Muncie, Marshall Faulk and Ricky Williams are the only other ball carriers to earn the game's MVP award since the game arrived here in 1980.
Peterson also played most of the contest, a rarity at the yearly exhibition here. Backs normally share duty throughout the game. Yesterday, NFC runners Marion Barber and Brian Westbrook combined for only seven carries.
"I work on being explosive, so when there's a crease, I try to take advantage," Peterson said.
One of those creases, a tiny one, formed during his first touchdown that went for 17 yards in the third quarter.
"The tackle did a great job, pinning them in," the dynamic rookie said. "I bounced to the outside, got a skinny little hole and stayed inbounds (around the corner). Then I was off to the races. I don't know who that tackle was, but he got the job done."
Peterson said he "cranked it up" in the fourth quarter, when he reached the end zone a second time, from 6 yards out.
"We were only up by five," he said. "We were all saying, "We've got to get the ball in the end zone. ' "
This time, Peterson went up the middle for the score that put the NFC ahead by 12 points (the eventual 42-30 final score) with 2:43 left.
That play not only sealed the game, but it also sealed the MVP honor. Dallas' Terrell Owens also had two touchdowns among his eight catches for 101 yards, and could have swayed voters in the media if he had gotten that late-game score.
Owens ran up to Peterson after the final TD and gave him a big, congratulatory hug.
It was obvious that Peterson isn't getting caught up in his own celebrity. He signed numerous autographs on the sideline after the game.
"I'm staying humble," he said. "I will work hard and do whatever it takes and continue to do it. Not making the playoffs, that was hard, but making the Pro Bowl and getting the MVP, that's like the cherry on top."
The future for Minnesota's No. 28 looks unmistakably bright, for sure.
"Oh, my god," said Seattle linebacker Julian Peterson, who said he and Adrian are cousins. "He has the ability to be one of the best running backs to play the game. I just hope he stays healthy."
Adrian Peterson didn't forget his blockers. With the exception of Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, who played yesterday, Peterson paid the fares for Minnesota's other offensive linemen to come to Hawaii for Pro Bowl week.
"They took care of me, so I gotta do the same for them," Peterson said.
As for the Cadillac?
"I think I'll keep it for myself," he said.