NEW ORLEANS -- Adrian Peterson called it a blessing in disguise.

Strange way to describe career-threatening major knee surgery.

The Minnesota Vikings' star came back better than ever, just missing Eric Dickerson's long-standing rushing record and closing out the season with two of the top NFL awards from The Associated Press: Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.

As sort of an added bonus, he beat Peyton Manning for both of them Saturday night.

"My career could have easily been over, just like that," the sensational running back said. "Oh, man. The things I've been through throughout my lifetime has made me mentally tough.

"I'm kind of speechless. This is amazing, '' he said in accepting his awards, along with five others at the "2nd Annual NFL Honors" show on CBS saluting the NFL's best players, performances and plays from the 2012 season. The awards are based on balloting from a nationwide panel of 50 media members.

Manning's own sensational recovery, from four neck surgeries, earned him Comeback Player honors.

Also honored were:

  • Houston end J.J. Watt, who took Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 of 50 votes.

  • Bruce Arians, the first interim coach to win Coach of the Year after leading Indianapolis to a 9-3 record while head man Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. Arians became Arizona's head coach last month.

  • Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league's leader in tackles with 164, who won the top defensive rookie award.

    Peterson returned better than ever from the left knee surgery, rushing for 2,097 yards, 9 short of breaking Dickerson's record. He also sparked the Vikings' turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff berth.