Adrian Peterson ran away with The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting the same way he surged past opposing tacklers this season.
The Minnesota Vikings running back, who set the league mark for rushing in a game with 296 yards in a 35-17 victory over San Diego, also had a 224-yarder in a win against Chicago. The key to Minnesota's improvement to an 8-8 record this season, he led the NFC with 1,341 yards rushing, second only to San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson in the league. His 78 points on 13 touchdowns were second in the conference.
Those numbers, compiled in 14 games, and his overall impact -- the Vikings struggled to pass the ball, yet were in the wild-card race until the final game -- earned Peterson 46? votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas was the only other player receiving votes, 3?.
"I added to things they already had," Peterson said. "I am a playmaker. That's why I say if there is anything I could do to put me out there, just put me out there.
"I wanted to come in and be a difference and help the team turn around. I came with the attitude to do whatever I had to do to get on the field."
Peterson was not a starter until the sixth game, a week after his big performance against the Bears. While veteran Chester Taylor opened the first five games and was coming off a strong year, it was clear that Peterson could be a difference-maker.
So coach Brad Childress had to turn him loose.
"From an early time, a week after the draft when we had about 50 free agents in here, you knew he was going to be a special guy," Childress said.
The seventh selection in the draft, Peterson brought some durability issues with him after suffering several injuries at Oklahoma. He did miss two games with a knee problem and wasn't particularly effective for much of December when he returned to the lineup.
But at his best, Peterson was as good as any rookie runner the league has seen; halfway through the schedule, he was on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. And even though he slowed because of the injury, Peterson had little competition for the award.
"I knew what I was bringing to the table. I'm pretty sure those guys knew by drafting me," Peterson said. "I came in with the attitude to just contribute any way I could. Get in game shape and be valuable to play."
Vikings cornerback Cedric Griffin played at Texas and faced Peterson each season. That Peterson was the NFL's top offensive rookie was no surprise to Griffin.
"I knew what he possessed. He's just a great back, and I respect that of him," Griffin said. "I don't think he needs any praises, because he knows that he has that capability of carrying this team. He's been doing a great job, and everyone knows that."
Peterson is the fifth Viking to win the award, joining Paul Flatley in 1967, Chuck Foreman in 1973, Sammy White in '76 and Randy Moss in 1998. Only Foreman was a running back; the other three were wide receivers.
Last year's winner was Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.