MINNEAPOLIS - Minutes after Adrian Peterson lost a fourth-quarter fumble at the San Diego 20-yard line, the ball was back in his hands.
He rumbled around right end, paused to set up his blocks, and sprinted 46 yards up the sideline for Minnesota’s game-clinching touchdown.
This rookie doesn’t make many mistakes. He simply sets a lot of records.
Racing to the NFL’s single-game rushing record of 296 yards at the midpoint of his first pro season, Peterson carried the Vikings to a 35-17 victory over the Chargers on Sunday.
He didn’t realize the significance of his performance until his benign 3-yard carry took the clock under 60 seconds and sent him past Jamal Lewis’ 295-yard performance against Cleveland in 2003 for the best game a running back has ever had in this league.
“Oh, no. I was out playing ball,” Peterson said. “I wasn’t thinking about the record at all.”
There are more for him to ponder.
“I set my bar high, because I know anything is possible when you continue to work hard,” Peterson said.
Minnesota (3-5) pressured Philip Rivers into one of the worst games of his career and made sure LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t come close to matching Peterson’s performance.
Tomlinson rushed 16 times for 40 yards, and Rivers went 19-for-42 for 197 yards with one interception. He lost one of his three fumbles, two of which were dropped snaps.
“It’s not defense or offense. It’s all of us,” Rivers said. “Obviously we were given plenty of opportunities, but we didn’t do enough.”
San Diego (4-4) lost a November game for the first time since 2003 and reverted to the shaky play on both sides of the ball that led to a 1-3 start. The defense that ranked seventh in the league against the run was thoroughly beaten.
“I have been in this league too long to use the word embarrassed,” coach Norv Turner said.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson got hurt again, and backup Brooks Bollinger was much better in the second half. That included a 40-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice that put the Vikings in front 21-14.
But it’s easy to look good handing off to Peterson.
After Peterson’s fumble, the Chargers recovered with 10 minutes left and trailed only 21-17. Minnesota’s defense, which came into the game allowing the most yards passing in the league, forced another three-and-out and San Diego’s eighth punt of the afternoon.
Mewelde Moore returned it 42 yards, and Peterson needed only one play to put the game away and again show off his unique blend of power, speed and instinct.
Rivers threw an interception, Chester Taylor followed with a short touchdown run, and the Vikings suddenly led by 18 — reaching 35 points for the first time in 24 games under coach Brad Childress.
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