Does Peterson have one great day left in him?

by Gary Shelton on October 11, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

He was in the wrong city, and the wrong colors, and the wrong time of his life.

Earl Campbell was playing out the string, and by his standards, he wasn't playing very well. Going back to his previous season, Campbell had played 17 straight games with fewer than 50 yards. For a man who had chewed up yardage for most of his career, it was hard to see. He was 30, an old 30.

Then came November 24, and once again, the Tyler Rose was blooming. Playing for the Saints against Minnesota, Campbell carried the ball 35 times for 160 yards to lead the Saints over the Vikings. Campbell would play four more pedestrian games before retiring, but in a way, the Vikings game was his going-out-of-business sale. Yeah, he seemed to be saying. That's what I was.

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Then there was Emmitt Smith. He was 35, playing it out with the Arizona Cardinals. And then came the Saints.

Smith wasn't the same back he was in Dallas, but on Oct. 3 of 2004, he showed he still had life. He rushed 21 times for 127 yards, a 6.1 average, and led a 34-10 victory. No, he wasn't used up, either. He still had something to offer.

And so it is that the Tampa Bay Bucs look in the direction of Adrian Peterson and wonder: What does he have that is left?

Peterson, acquired by the Cardinals in a trade Tuesday, hasn't shown the Saints that he has a lot. He's carried 27 times for only 81 yards. In a season in which he was supposed to second-fiddle to Drew Brees, he has been lucky to even be in the orchestra.

But the Cardinals are a new chance to finish well for Peterson. Which is a whole new concern for the Bucs. Now, they have to make sure to show that Peterson's impact days are behind him.

Are they?

In four games, the Bucs' defense against the run has been solid. It's ranked eighth in the NFL so far. And the Cardinals' offensive line has been a mess. It'll be uphill for Peterson.

But do you trust karma? Do you believe in storylines? Do you think there might still be gas in the tank for one of the league's most prolific runners?

It has happened before. In Barry Sanders' final season (he was only 30, remember?), he went for 185 yards against the Bengals. Of course, Sanders had eight 100-plus games that season, so it wasn't a rare sight.

The same year, 1985, John Riggins was playing his final season. Against Detroit, he had  114 yards and three scores.

In Tony Dorsett's final season, playing for Denver, he had 119 yards against the Raiders. Eric Dickerson had 77 yards against the Saints; he had only 14 other rushing yards all year.

In 2005, against Buffalo, Curtis Martin ran for 148 yards in his final season with the Jets. He didn't have another 100-yard day all year.It was as if the sport promised him one final big afternoon.

In his last season, Warrick Dunn had a 115-yard day. It was his only 100-yard day of the year.

In his next-to-last season, Walter Peyton lit up the Bucs for 139 yards. He played 18 more games and never broke 100 again (he did have an 82-yard game).

The point is this: in the NFL, a back's game is only partially about speed. It's about lanes and vision and playing dodgeball. For one afternoon, a legend can do that; he simply can't keep going very long.

So the Bucs should tackle well this week in the final steps of Peterson's grand journey. After all, heaven loves a good story.

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