R. B. Fallstrom
The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS —
Well in the clear, Adrian Peterson had enough time to sneak a peek at the video board in the end zone as he finished an 82-yard run — and topped it off with some fancy high-stepping.
After piling up a season-best 212 yards on 24 carries in a 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday that wasn't as close as the score indicated, the Minnesota Vikings running back remained hot on the trail of the NFL single-season record.
Peterson has a career-best 1,812 yards rushing, leaving him 294 shy of breaking the mark of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. Peterson, less than a year removed from a serious knee injury, has two games left — at Houston and home against Green Bay — to top Dickerson.
The Vikings (8-6) scored 10 of their 23 points in the second quarter off turnovers by Sam Bradford, including a 29-yard interception return by defensive end Everson Griffen that the Rams quarterback watched in disbelief from his knees.
They were up by 26 before Bradford, whose botched center snap also cost the Rams (6-7-1) a field goal in the second quarter, threw touchdown passes to Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings remained in the playoff picture while seriously damaging the Rams' postseason hopes. St. Louis had won three in a row to become a dark horse candidate for the playoffs.
Steven Jackson became the 15th player to rush for 10,000 yards for the Rams. He had 73 yards on just eight carries and has 909 yards on the year, keeping him in range of an eighth straight 1,000-yard season.
A moment of silence was observed for victims of the Connecticut elementary school shooting before the national anthem, with dozens of children wearing uniform jerseys holding hands with players in a circle extending from the 30-yard lines and centered on the Rams' logo at midfield.
In a tribute to the 26 victims, each team sent the players wearing the No. 26 jersey — Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield — and they held hands with coaches Jeff Fisher and Leslie Frazier to form a smaller interior circle.
Peterson topped his previous single-season best of 1,760 yards in 2007 on a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter. On both long runs, Peterson made something out of nothing with nimble cutbacks to daylight.
Christian Ponder had a turnover-free game and ran for the game's first score for the Vikings, who had been just 1-5 on the road with the other victory at Detroit in September. Rookie kicker Blair Walsh was perfect on five field-goal attempts, three of them from 50 yards and beyond.
The Rams stopped Peterson, held to minus-3 yards on five carries, but not Ponder on the Vikings' opening drive. Benefiting from a short field at the St. Louis 45, the quarterback was 3 for 3 for 38 yards plus a 5-yard scramble that put them up 7-0.
Rookie Brian Quick won a jump ball with A.J. Jefferson in the end zone on a 4-yard reception, landing just inbounds to tie it early in the second quarter.
Then, the Vikings took over.
Peterson's 82-yard score came on the next play, Walsh's 50-yard field goal made the Rams pay for Bradford's botched snap and Griffen's interception return gave Minnesota 17 points in a span of just 3:56.