By and bye, Adrian Peterson, others in NFL come tantalizingly close

Minnesota player falls short by nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's season rushing record. Houston and Green Bay blow their chances for first-round playoff byes with road losses.

Two thousand steps forward.

Two big steps back.

On a Sunday when Minnesota's Adrian Peterson became the seventh NFL player to run for 2,000 yards — coming within nine of breaking Eric Dickerson's season rushing record — two teams backpedaled in a big way.

The Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers lost on the road, both blowing opportunities for first-round playoff byes.

Indianapolis beat Houston, 28-16, and the Vikings edged the Packers, 37-34, to earn the final playoff spot in the NFC.

Swooping in to secure those No. 2 seedings — which come with a week off — were San Francisco in the NFC and New England in the AFC.

The top seedings are Atlanta in the NFC and Denver in the AFC.

The Vikings' victory secured a first-round rematch Saturday night with Green Bay, this time at Lambeau Field.

The playoffs open Saturday with Cincinnati at Houston. On Sunday, Indianapolis plays at Baltimore, followed by Seattle at Washington.

The Redskins clinched the NFC East on Sunday night with a 28-18 victory over Dallas in a winner-take-all game. The Redskins won the division title for the first time since 1999, and are the first team since the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars to make the playoffs after losing six of its first nine games.

That means the first round will feature a record three rookie quarterbacks: the Colts' Andrew Luck, and — in the same game — the Redskins' Robert Griffin III and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson.

Peterson, scarcely a year after suffering torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, completed a head-spinning season in which he ran for 2,097 yards — 199 against the Packers on Sunday — to fall just short of the 2,105 mark set by Dickerson in 1984.

So fans of the old Los Angeles Rams can say that 29 (Dickerson's jersey number) is still greater than 28 (Peterson's).

Peterson was all smiles after the game, and seemed unaware in an on-field TV interview that he had come so close to eclipsing Dickerson's mark, bringing new meaning to the phrase "the whole nine yards."

"It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does," said Peterson, who had a career-high 34 carries. "But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs."

Making the win sweeter for the Vikings, they eliminated division rival Chicago in grabbing the last playoff spot.

Peterson's comeback was the season's most amazing one, but not the most emotional. That was the return Sunday of Indianapolis Coach Chuck Pagano, who in September learned he had a treatable form of leukemia.

Interim Coach Bruce Arians guided the Colts to a playoff berth, and probably will become the first stand-in to be named coach of the year.

In yet another emotional moment in this fairy tale of a season for the Colts — a franchise that was 2-14 last season — Pagano blinked back tears Sunday as he was honored with a video tribute and a standing ovation from the packed house at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Then, the Colts took the field and handed the Texans their second consecutive defeat.

 

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