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The Vikings have followed Peterson’s lead, needing a victory over the Packers on Sunday to get into the playoffs in what most observers expected to be a rebuilding year. Peterson has carried the offense on his broad shoulders, turning the Vikings into a throwback attack that relies almost exclusively on the run for its big plays.

With second-year quarterback Christian Ponder going through some highs and lows, and the Vikings missing top receiver Percy Harvin with an ankle injury, the passing offense has ranked last in the league. Peterson is averaging more yards per rush than Ponder does per pass and his seven rushes of 50 yards tied him with Sanders in 1997 for the NFL record.

All the while, Peterson has said he’d take the first postseason berth in three years over 2,000 yards any day. But it was no secret that the individual achievement was important to him.

Unlike baseball, the NFL has few numbers that immediately grab the public’s attention. One of those is 2,000 yards, especially in this new pass-happy league. Peterson entered the game with 1,898 yards, more than 400 better than Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who was in second place.

“I definitely want to keep the running backs highlighted,” Peterson said this week. “It’s started to turn into more of a spread, quarterback-friendly NFL. But just keep letting them know that there are going to be running backs that can do this.”

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