Nationals

Vikings RB Peterson finishes 9 yards shy of record

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Vikings RB Peterson finishes 9 yards shy of record

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson ran right past everyone this season. Past all those running backs before him who couldn't make it to 2,000 yards in a season. Past every doubter who dared to think he wouldn't make it back from a devastating knee injury.

Past everyone except Eric Dickerson.

Peterson became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, plowing through the Green Bay Packers for a 20-yard gain that put him over the top in the third quarter Sunday. He finished with 199 yards and a touchdown in the 37-34 victory, leaving him nine yards shy of breaking Dickerson's single-season record.

``Ultimately we got the `W,''' Peterson said after carrying the ball a career-high 34 times. ``We said during the week, if it happens, it happens. Don't focus on it.''

Peterson needed 208 yards when the day began to break Dickerson's record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. His 26-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up Blair Walsh's winning field goal, a kick that clinched a playoff berth for the Vikings. He'll have to settle for the second-best total - 2,097 yards - and a trip to Lambeau Field for a playoff rematch next Saturday night.

``I know Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now,'' Peterson said with a chuckle, referencing public comments from Dickerson a few weeks back saying he hoped Peterson didn't break his record. ``But God willing, I'll get it next year.''

Even without the record, his remarkable comeback season now has a magic number to punctuate it.

Peterson came in 102 yards shy of joining O.J. Simpson, Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson in the 2,000-yard club. Peterson is the only one to do it after reconstructive knee surgery, and he did it on the one-year anniversary of his knee surgery.

``He is without question the best running back in our game and truly, in my mind, the MVP of our league,'' Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. ``We don't win this game without Adrian Peterson.''

The Vikings punted a few plays after Peterson's big run, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation when the achievement was announced. Peterson took it all in stride, waving politely, but otherwise not making anything special out of it in a game the Vikings needed to win to make the playoffs. He simply didn't have time to reflect on the long, arduous path it took for him to get there after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

It was only last December when Peterson crumpled to the turf in Washington, two ligaments torn, leaving many to wonder if his career would ever be the same.

Well, it hasn't been.

Peterson vowed from the very beginning to return better than ever from an injury that has ended the careers of so many before him. There weren't many believers, including in his own locker room.

But a combination of uncommon genetics, unshakable determination and a smart rehabilitation plan from Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman had Peterson back in the starting lineup on opening day.

Peterson scored two touchdowns in the opener, but didn't top 100 yards in a game until Week 4 when he went for 102 against the Lions. As the season went on, the scar tissue in his knee started to break up and Peterson took off like a purple rocket.

His cuts are sharper, his vision better and his patience is making the difference between a 4-yard plunge through the line and a 40-yard dash down the sideline.

He went on a breathtaking eight-game run, amassing 1,313 yards and topping 200 yards twice in four games to vault into the MVP discussion and make 2,000 yards a possibility.

When asked this week to describe his running style in one word, Peterson replied: ``Vicious.''

That certainly sums it up.

He got off to a fast start with 61 yards and a touchdown on the first two drives, hearing chants of ``MVP! MVP!'' just before he surged into the end zone for a 7-yard score and a 10-0 Vikings lead. He also had runs of 12 and 21 yards early to get the Vikings going in this win-and-they're-in game.

``I don't let awards identify me,'' Peterson said. ``I don't do it. I go out and define myself by what I do on the field. Whether I win it or not, and I'm not saying I don't want to, just like I wanted to break the record, either way, in my heart I'm the MVP. That's all that matters.''

The Vikings have followed Peterson's lead 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.

``Congrats to (Adrian) Peterson on becoming the 7th member of the 2K club,'' Johnson tweeted, ``now let's see who can run down ED.''

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.

``Adrian so many times made plays on his own,'' Frazier said. ``He's special in every way.''

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AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker contributed to this story.

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Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

The Nationals took a significant step in building their roster for the 2020 season Friday when they reportedly re-signed Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021.

Kendrick was limited to just 121 games during the regular season but played an important role for the team in the playoffs with some hits that will forever live in Nationals lore.

But Kendrick wasn’t just a clutch hitter in the playoffs. His 1.135 OPS in “late and close” situations—defined by Baseball-Reference as any situation in the seventh inning or later where a hitter’s team is either up by one, tied or the tying run is on deck—ranked second on the team among players with at least 30 such plate appearances last season.

Washington is bringing back the 36-year-old with hopes that he can continue to come through in key moments as his career winds down. But even if he doesn’t, Kendrick has cemented his Nationals legacy.

Here are six of his best moments from the 2019 season.

April 13 – Eaton, Kendrick spoil Archer’s big day

Chris Archer has had an up-and-down tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired in a blockbuster trade midway through the 2018 season. His best start of the year, however, came against the Nationals on April 13.

Archer held Washington one run on four hits over seven innings, handing the game over to the Pirates’ bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Reliever Richard Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Adam Eaton came to the plate.

That’s when the pendulum swung, as Eaton left the yard only for Kendrick to do so a few minutes later. Sean Doolittle closed the door in the top of the ninth and the Nationals moved to 7-6 on the year.

May 9 – Kendrick drives in four against the Dodgers

Patrick Corbin may have been the story in this one by blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers over seven strong frames, but it was also one of Kendrick’s best games of the year.

His big hit didn’t come late, however. Kendrick took Rich Hill deep for a three-run homer in the top of the first to set the tone early. He then hit an RBI single with two runners on in the eighth before the Nationals eventually won 6-0.

June 9 – Kendrick hits the first of four straight homers

It was a 1-1 game when Kendrick came to the plate in the top of the eighth against the San Diego Padres on June 9. So naturally he saw a curveball heading for the center of the plate and pulled it into the left field seats for a go-ahead home run.

What followed was absolute madness. Trea Tuner homered. Then Eaton did. Then Anthony Rendon. It was the second time the Nationals went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in team history and more than enough to give Washington the win.

NLDS Game 5 – The greatest moment in Nationals history, for a few weeks

“Do you believe it!?”

That was the radio call Dave Jageler made when Kendrick hit a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning. It was the moment that delivered the Nationals’ first postseason series winning, putting to bed a history of disappointment for the franchise.

It was the single-most important hit any Nationals player ever had. That is, until a certain World Series game a few weeks later…

NLCS Game 3 – Kendrick hits three doubles en route to NLCS MVP honors

There was no way a list like this could be put together without a nod toward Kendrick’s NLCS performance. He reached base seven times in the series, driving in four runs and scoring another four of his own. But by far his best game came in Game 3.

The Nationals returned to D.C. with a 2-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and treated their fans to a blowout 8-1 win. Kendrick smacked three doubles, including a two-run, opposite-field gap plugger off Jack Flaherty in the bottom of the third that gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

World Series Game 7 – You know the one

When that ball clanked off the foul pole down the right field line, it changed the lives of D.C. sports fans forever. The magical run had one last bit of magic left, and of course it came courtesy of the man who gave the fan base real hope in the first place.

Kendrick is back for another run in 2020. The Nationals? They’re hoping his magic hasn’t run out just yet.

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How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

Bill Belichick has seen a lot of football. A lot.

The New England Patriots head coach certainly knows what he's talking about and he didn't hold back when talking about Baltimore Ravens legend Ed Reed.

On a segment for NFL 100, Reed and Belichick recalled one of the former safety's interception against Manning, a play that Belichick called "one of the greatest plays I've ever seen."

Just listen to how giddy Belichick got talking about the play. 

Reed said he purposefully misplayed a certain coverage so that when Manning watched the film to prepare for the next game, Reed could fake him out the next time.

Manning became an all-time great because of his cerebral approach to football, so it's no hyperbole to say more men have walked on the moon than have outsmarted Peyton Manning on the gridiron. Reed is one of the few players to do so and became a Hall of Famer for playing that way his whole career.

Reed knew the entire time where the ball was going and made Manning look foolish for making that throw.

That's the stuff of legends.

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