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The 2017 Version of Adrian Peterson Suddenly Looks Like the One From 2012

Just a few days after being traded from the Saints to the Cardinals, Peterson ran for two touchdowns and over 130 yards en route to a victory over the Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

In a joint interview with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram during training camp in August, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer asked Peterson if his New Orleans stint was doomed to fail.

“So what’s the dynamic?” Glazer asked of Peterson and Ingram. “Your job is to keep him off the field, your job is to take his job from him, and we’re all sitting here hanging out. ... Explain to the people at home how that would possibly work?”

Peterson smiled: “Coming into the situation, I knew what kind of role I would be playing.”

He was either painfully wrong or lying through his teeth. After averaging just under 20 carries per game in Minnesota, he saw less than seven per game in his first four games in New Orleans, as Ingram and Alvin Kamara, a rookie third-round pick out of Tennessee, passed him on the depth chart. It didn’t take long for Peterson to begin jawing at Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sideline. Peterson, in his words, needed a “change of scenery.”

He got just that when the Cardinals traded a conditional sixth-round pick for the 32-year-old running back on October 10. After David Johnson dislocated his wrist in Week 1, Arizona was left with the worst rushing attack in football. Four and a half weeks of Kerwynn Williams, Chris Johnson, and Andre Ellington were enough to force Bruce Arians and Co. to take a flier on the washed-up-looking Peterson.

In four games in New Orleans, Peterson had 27 carries for 81 yards. On Sunday, in his first game as a Cardinal, Peterson had 26 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns, as the Cardinals beat the Bucs 38-33. The numbers match the eye test, as an offense with Peterson, Carson Palmer, and Larry Fitzgerald—who are a combined 103 years old—made plenty of NFL fans feel young again. With the move out west, Peterson looked like his old self, defying Father Time and the Football Gods as an effective 30-something running back. He started the game with four rushes for 54 yards and scored a touchdown on the first possession of the game.

If you squint hard enough, you might be able to convince yourself that it’s 2012 again.

With his second rushing touchdown, Peterson tied Barry Sanders for ninth all time with 99. If he keeps playing as he did on Sunday, he could conceivably pass Jim Brown at 106 and crack the top five this season. After the win over the Bucs, the Cardinals jumped to .500. In a conference where all but one team has at least two losses, the 3-3 mark vaults Arizona right back into the thick of the playoff hunt.

Peterson’s finally reclaimed a feature-back role—he just had to take a detour through the Big Easy to get there.