Peterson looked like he was fading away pretty quickly getting just a few snaps per game with the New Orleans Saints. When the Saints traded him last week, all they got back was a conditional sixth-round pick. Less than a week later, Peterson looked like Adrian Peterson.
Peterson, who had 27 carries for 81 yards in four games with the Saints, had 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in his first game with the Arizona Cardinals. It was his eighth NFC offensive player of the week award. Seeing the 32-year-old Peterson turn back the clock was one of the cooler moments of the season.
Now the question is if it’s the start of a great final chapter to his career, or just one last afternoon of glory in a strange uniform, like Babe Ruth hitting three home runs for the Boston Braves about a week before retiring?
The reason to believe Peterson can keep this going, aside from the fact that he’s a unique once-in-a-lifetime talent, is that you can blame injuries and inactivity for people believing he was washed up. In 2015, Peterson led the NFL in rushing. In 2016, he had a knee injury that wrecked nearly his whole season. This season, the Saints preferred Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara and rarely used Peterson. So the last time we saw a healthy Peterson getting regular carries, he was the NFL’s rushing champ. And 2015 wasn’t that long ago.
There’s also reason to be skeptical Peterson can play at this level all season. Most running backs his age don’t react well to 26 carries a game. The Cardinals’ offensive line is not good. Peterson had a nice matchup last week against a bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. They also might have underestimated him after a lot of chatter that Peterson was washed up. It was a perfect storm.
I think Peterson has more good days left. I give all-time great players like Peterson a little more leeway when it comes to the norms of what age their play should fall off a cliff. And, again, 2015’s rushing title wasn’t that long ago. Peterson should continue to be effective, continuing this week in London against the Los Angeles Rams. And if not, he’ll end up with one great, random highlight from his time with the Arizona Cardinals.
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