Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings became the first running back in six years to win the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player award following a season in which he fell nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s 28-year-old rushing record.
Peterson also was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year last night at the Second Annual NFL Honors ceremony in New Orleans, the site of today’s Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
Peterson, 27, finished ahead of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who was seeking to win the NFL’s top individual award for the fifth time. After missing the 2011 season because of neck fusion surgery, Manning returned to pass for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, the second-highest totals of his 15-year playing career, in his first season with the Broncos.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized as the league’s most valuable player,” said Peterson in a statement. “While the award is considered an individual achievement, I couldn’t have had the success that I did without my teammates, my coaches and the Vikings organization.”
Like Manning, Peterson returned from injury this season, coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee to rush for 2,097 yards. It was the second-highest total in NFL history behind Dickerson’s 2,105 yards rushing in 1984.
Peterson’s performance helped the Vikings make the playoffs and came at a time when most NFL offenses have put more focus on the passing game. Eight of the top 11 single-season passing yardage totals have come in the past two years, while no running back was within 400 yards of Peterson’s rushing total in 2012.
He is the first running back to win the NFL MVP award since LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander won in consecutive years in 2005 and 2006. The only other running backs to win the award since 1980 are Marshall Faulk, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas and Marcus Allen.
Manning, 36, was named Comeback Player of the Year after he helped lead Denver to the best record in the American Football Conference this season.
The Broncos quarterback received 31 1/2 votes while Peterson got 17 ½ votes.
Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III beat out fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
“It’s truly a blessing to be up there -- to be able to stand, first and foremost,” said Griffin, who underwent knee surgery after the season.
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league’s leader in tackles with 164, won the top defensive rookie award.
Bruce Arians, who took over coaching the Indianapolis Colts when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, became the first interim coach to win NFL Coach of the Year honors. Under the direction of Arians, who is now head coach in Arizona, the Colts were 9-3.
“It’s hard to put into words the feelings of this past year,” said Arians. “This was kind of the cherry on the top, whipped cream and everything else you put on top.”
Houston end J.J. Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year after receiving all but one of the 50 votes cast by members of the media who cover the league.
“In my plans it was there,” said Watt who led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks. “It sets the bar for me. I want to go out and do even better. I want to do even bigger things.”