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Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Updated: December 20, 9:30 PM ET
Peterson tops list of NFL comebacks

By Stats & Information
ESPN.com

What Adrian Peterson is doing is nothing short of miraculous. Not only is he having a career year, but he's on the verge of breaking the single-season record for most rushing yards. All this coming one year after suffering torn ligaments in his ACL and MCL.

If you didn't know better, you'd think Peterson was built in a lab. His numbers have him on the short list of MVP candidates, and he's putting up these stats on a team that has, if we can speak euphemistically for a moment, a limited passing game.

With all this in mind, Playbook takes a look at the top 10 best comebacks from injury in NFL history.

1. Adrian Peterson

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'12
RB
ACL/MCL
1

Adrian Peterson

On Christmas Eve 2011, Peterson tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee. He missed only the final game of that season but returned for the opening kickoff of the 2012 campaign -- a season for the ages. Peterson's 1,812 rushing yards leads the NFL and are the most by any player through 14 games since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. He needs 294 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards set in 1984.


2. Steve Smith

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'05
WR
Broken Leg
15

Steve Smith

In the first game of 2004, the Panthers lost receiver Smith for the season to a broken left leg. He came back the following year with the best season of his career. Smith hauled in 103 passes for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns, all career highs. He led the NFL in receiving yards and shared the league lead in receptions and touchdowns with Larry Fitzgerald and Marvin Harrison, respectively.


3. Peyton Manning

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'12
QB
Neck
16

Peyton Manning

After multiple neck surgeries forced Manning to miss all of 2011, his health and performance were both in question. Manning answered the bell this year in resounding fashion. He extended his own NFL record with his 12th season of 4,000 passing yards, and he leads the NFL in Total QBR (81.5). His 11 wins are the most by a player after missing an entire season of play and are the most for the Broncos since 2005.


4. Garrison Hearst

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'01
RB
Broken Fibula
32

Garrison Hearst

The 49ers lost their star running back to a broken leg in a 1998 divisional playoff loss to the Falcons. Hearst developed a circulatory problem during his recovery that caused him to miss all of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. He returned in 2001 in impressive fashion, rushing for 1,206 yards and catching 41 passes for an additional 347 yards. Hearst's 1,000-yard season was his third, making him just the second 49er at the time with three 1,000-yard seasons.


5. Dan Marino

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'94
QB
Torn Achilles
11

Dan Marino

Marino tore his Achilles tendon in Week 6 of the 1993 season. After sitting out the remainder of the campaign, he bounced back in a big way the following year. Marino turned in his sixth and final 4,000-yard season in 1994, and his 30 touchdown passes were his most in a season since 1986. He led the Dolphins to a 10-6 record and a divisional playoff appearance.


6. Tom Brady

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'09
QB
Torn ACL
15

Brady

In the Patriots' 2008 season opener, Brady tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and missed the entire season. The following year he played and started all 16 games, leading New England to its seventh straight 10-win season and sixth playoff appearance in seven years. Brady threw for 4,398 yards and had 28 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions.


7. Matthew Stafford

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'11
QB
Shoulder
13

Matthew Stafford

Stafford injured his shoulder in the Lions' 2010 season opener and played just two more games before being lost for the remainder of the year. Plagued by health concerns after playing just 13 games in his first two seasons, Stafford bounced back with a banner 2011. He became one of just four players in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards (his 5,038 yards are the fifth-highest single-season total in NFL history) and led Detroit to its first playoff appearance since 1999.


8. John Stallworth

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'84
WR
Hamstring
12

John Stallworth

Various ailments limited Stallworth to just four games in 1983. The next year, he caught 80 passes for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns -- all career highs -- as the Steelers made their third straight playoff appearance.


9. Rod Woodson

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'96
DB
Torn ACL
12

Rod Woodson

In Week 1 of the 1995 season, Woodson tore his ACL attempting to tackle Barry Sanders. Not only did he return in time to play in the Super Bowl that same season, but he was back in rare form the following year. Woodson started all 16 games in 1996, tied for fourth in the NFL with six interceptions, led the Steelers to the divisional round and made the Pro Bowl.


10. Randall Cunningham

Team
Year
Position
Injury
Games missed
'92
QB
Torn ACL
15

Randall Cunningham

Cunningham missed 15 games in 1991 after tearing his ACL in the season opener. The next year he passed for 2,775 yards and ran for another 437 while leading the Eagles to their first playoff win since 1980.