The Greatest Game I Ever Attended
Using both hands, I can count the number of NFL games I have attended. In fact, I have only passed through the gates of two NFL stadiums: Lambeau Field and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. I have seen the Packers and the Vikings face off with each other more times than I have seen those two teams play separately. However, the greatest football game I have ever attended involved only one of those two teams.
It was Sunday, November 4, 2007. The San Diego Chargers were in town to face the Minnesota Vikings. It is the first and only time I had been to the Metrodome when the Vikings were not playing the Packers. As my wife, her sister, my brother-in-law and I settled into our seats, I can’t say I felt all that excited about the game; other than watching LaDainian Tomlinson, I didn’t have much interest in the Chargers. Substitute Adrian Peterson for LaDainian Tomlinson in that last sentence, and that would describe my feelings towards the Vikings back then as well. But it was time well spent with family, so I sat back and enjoyed the action.
After Tomlinson and Peterson matched each other’s touchdown plunges, the game was tied at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. With seconds remaining in the second quarter, Ryan Longwell lined up for a 59-yard field goal. The attempt fell short and Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie made a spectacular play to catch the ball before it landed out of bounds behind the end zone. Cromartie then eluded multiple would-be tacklers and ran the ball back 109 yards for a touchdown leaving the Vikings down 14-7 after the first half. After a poorly executed first half for both teams, I recall the Vikings faithful encouraging their team with a chorus of boos as Childress and the Vikings retreated to the solace of their locker room.
The second half, however, was a very different story. Adrian Peterson was, simply put, ‘the man’ on that Sunday afternoon. After being held to 43 rushing yards in the first half, Peterson ran all over the Chargers defense in the second half. Peterson rushed for an NFL single-game rushing record 297 yards on the day, with 253 of those yards coming in the second half. I recall Peterson being unstoppable. He was bigger, faster, and better than any other football player on the field. Every time he touched the ball, the Metrodome crowd would rise to their feet and erupt in cheers as Peterson rattled off rushes for 64-, 46-, and 19-yards with ease.
It wasn’t until Peterson’s third touchdown scamper put the game out of reach, and my sister-in-law suggested we leave early to beat traffic, that I realized we were witnessing history. As we made our way toward the exit, I held back and watched Peterson rip off another 35-yard run. He was now two yards away from breaking Jamal Lewis’ single-game rushing record. I corralled everyone back to the railing overlooking the field, and we watched Adrian Peterson plunge up the middle for a three yard gain. Adrian Peterson’s final record-breaking rush of the day was a routine dive up the middle but a history-making finale to an amazing performance.
It was the single best football performance I had ever seen in person. I don’t know if I’ll ever see anything like it again.