September 22, 2021

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Quick Reads Decade in Review: RB Games

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Best Running Back Games, Total DYAR, 2010-2019

Year Player Team Runs Rush Yds Rush TD Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Total
DYAR Week Def DVOA 2013 Jamaal Charles KC 8 20 1 8/8 195 4 116 4 112 15 OAK 10.3% The Chiefs threw [Charles] eight passes, all complete. The first two receptions resulted in touchdowns of 49 and 39 yards, the latter on third-and-19. He added a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and a 71-yard score (on third-and-1) in the third. His other four receptions netted only 20 total yards and one first down, but that hardly matters. It was just the sixth time in league history that any player at any position had gained 195 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and the first since Jerry Rice against Atlanta in 1990. (It probably goes without saying, but this was the best game of this or any other decade for a running back by receiving DYAR. Nobody else has his hit 195/4TD since, but Pro Football Reference now lists eight games that qualify.)
  2018 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 25 152 0 4/4 88 1 110 50 59 4 DET 9.0% In one stretch in the second half, Elliott gained five first downs in six carries, and the other carry was a 9-yard gain on first-and-10. All told he gained nine first downs on the ground, including gains of 14, 19, and 41 yards. He had six carries with 1 or 2 yards to go for a first down and converted five of them, while being hit for no gain or a loss only three times. All four of his receptions went for first downs, including a 38-yard touchdown and a 34-yard gain on second-and-10. His day was so good he finishes as the top running back even though he had a fumble at the goal line.
  2010 Arian Foster HOU 33 231 3 1/1 7 0 109 110 0 1 IND 5.5% Foster averaged 9.2 yards a pop on first down, converted four of the five third downs he faced, and picked up that one leftover on the ensuing fourth down. Nearly half of his carries — 14 of 33 — resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. Barring an injury or a sudden case of Eric Mangini, the Texans have found their starting running back for the foreseeable future. (Foster was indeed Houston’s starting running back until 2014. By rushing DYAR alone, this was the best game for a running back in the 2010s.)
  2014 Jonas Gray NE 37 201 4 0/0 0 0 104 104 0 11 IND -2.3% Gray’s yeoman-like effort produced a whopping 15 first downs on the ground. That’s the most for any player in a game this year, and only the sixth time a player has hit double digits in this category. (Coincidentally, two of the other players with ten first downs in a game also did it in Week 11. Jamaal Charles had 11 first downs against Seattle, while Alfred Blue had the same number against Cleveland.) It was Gray’s ability to move the chains in short- and even medium-yardage that really stood out. He had 16 carries with 5 yards or less to go for a first down, and he picked up that first down 13 times. (Nobody has run for 15 first downs in a game in the regular season since Gray. The most for any runner in 2019 was 12 by Derrick Henry in Week 17.)
  2015 David Johnson ARI 29 187 3 4/4 42 0 103 75 27 15 PHI 3.0% Johnson’s longest gain against Philadelphia was a 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but he had four other 10-plus-yard runs on the night. Including his touchdowns, he ran for ten first downs, including conversions on all five of his carries with 1 yard to go. He had 21 runs of 3 yards or more, but was hit for no gain or a loss only twice. Only eight of his 29 carries were unsuccessful, giving him a smashing success rate of 72%.
  2016 Rex Burkhead CIN 27 119 2 2/2 25 0 103 90 13 17 BAL -9.9% (Because Burkhead’s big game came in Week 17, it ran without a comment. Burkhead ran for 10 first downs against Baltimore, with gains of 10 and 17 yards, while being stuffed just three times. He had a dozen carries with 8 yards or less to go for a first down and converted — you guessed it — 10 of them.)
  2017 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 26 147 2 1/3 72 1 101 79 23 7 SF 8.3% The most impressive part of Elliott’s day wasn’t his long reception, or his seven first downs, or his five runs for 10 or more yards. The most impressive part is that in 26 carries — 22 of them with Dallas ahead, 11 of them with Dallas ahead by 24-plus points in the second half — Elliott was hit for no gain or a loss just one time.
  2016 Spencer Ware KC 11 70 1 7/8 129 0 100 38 61 1 SD -6.8% Four of Ware’s runs went for 10 yards or more, he converted both of his third-down carries, and he was hit for no gain just once. One of his targets came on third-and-3 (he converted with a 5-yard gain), but the rest were all on first-and-10. He turned four of those into first downs, on gains of 12, 20, 28, and 45 yards.
  2019 Christian McCaffrey CAR 19 128 2 10/11 81 0 99 70 29 1 LAR -6.4% Five runs for 10-plus yards with three shorter first downs, including two red zone scores. He was stuffed for no gain or a loss just twice, and one of those was on third-and-12 so it barely mattered. Six of his 10 catches were successful (a good rate for a running back), including three first downs.
  2011 Arian Foster HOU 25 115 2 5/5 119 1 99 42 57 7 TEN 0.3% Foster had 25 carries against Tennessee and gained 4 or more yards 11 times. He had three other short runs for first downs or touchdowns and was stuffed for no gain or a loss only three times. It was a very good day as a runner, but not the best. Foster finishes atop the list of running backs, and by a healthy margin, because he also caught all five passes thrown his way, including a 78-yard touchdown, a 26-yard gain, and gains of 5 and 6 yards on first down. He finished with three touchdowns on the day, which always helps.
  2010 Jason Snelling ATL 24 129 2 5/5 57 1 98 66 32 2 ARI 5.6% You didn’t have Jason Snelling in your fantasy lineup? Well, I didn’t either. But Snelling showed off the sort of production Michael Turner could have put up against a Cardinals defense that appears to dearly miss both Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. With the game in hand most of the way, Snelling simply took over the clock. Nine of his 24 carries went for a first down or a touchdown, and he converted three of the four third downs he faced (with the one holdout a third-and-15 job). He even caught all five of the passes thrown to him while accruing 60 YAC. With Snelling playing so well, the Falcons were able to let Turner rest a balky groin on the sideline; in the future, they might even give Snelling a share of the workload before Turner gets hurt.
  2019 Aaron Jones GB 19 107 4 7/8 75 0 96 65 31 5 DAL 3.0% You’ve probably heard by now that Jones ran for four touchdowns against Dallas, but he had six other first downs too, six of them on gains of 10 yards or more. That more than offset the four times he was stuffed for no gain or a loss (including a 10-yard loss on first-and-10, which, wow). He had three more first downs as a receiver, the longest a gain of 22 yards.
  2015 Thomas Rawls SEA 30 209 1 3/3 46 1 96 68 28 11 SF 9.9% He had 13 total first downs on the ground, most of any runner in any game this year. (Only two others have even hit double-digits: Carlos Hyde had 11 in Week 1 against Minnesota, and Devonta Freeman had 10 in Week 5 against Washington.) Half of Rawls’ carries gained 5 yards or more and seven gained 10 or more, with a long carry of 30. Meanwhile, he was hit for no gain or a loss only three times, and two of those came with Seattle up by 16 points in the last five minutes of the game when everyone on the West Coast knew the Seahawks would be rushing. His receptions included a 12-yard gain on first-and-10 and a 31-yard touchdown on second-and-5.
  2016 Carlos Hyde SF 17 193 0 1/1 7 1 95 79 16 14 NYJ 3.7% Seven runs of 10-plus yards — including gains of 20, 25, 43, and 47 — while getting hit for nor gain or a loss only four times.
  2012 Shane Vereen NE 7 41 1 5/6 83 2 95 34 61 19 HOU -14.2% In 62 runs and 13 pass targets in the regular season, Vereen had two plays for 20 yards or more, and one of those came on a defensive pass interference foul. He had three 20-yard plays against Houston, and there were no referees involved. First came a 25-yard catch in the first quarter, then a 22-yard run in the second, followed by a 33-yard catch for a touchdown in the fourth. (This was the best playoff game for a running back this decade. The best Super Bowl was Devonta Freeman with 62 DYAR in Super Bowl LI, followed by James White with 61 DYAR, also in Super Bowl LI.)
  2010 Jamaal Charles KC 22 177 0 5/5 61 0 94 62 32 8 BUF 6.8% Charles was ridiculously effective on first downs, averaging 11.1 yards on 12 carries, including nine gains of 6 yards or more. He also led the team with four catches and 61 yards in only five targets, and all four catches resulted in first downs.
  2018 Derrick Henry TEN 17 238 4 0/0 0 0 94 94 0 14 JAX -9.4% By now, most of you have no doubt seen Derrick Henry’s record-tying, tackle-busting, Jaguars-shaming 99-yard touchdown run from last Thursday. That was the biggest play in a night straight out of a running back’s dream. Henry finished with 238 yards and four touchdowns on only 17 carries. Henry was spectacular, and he was efficient too — eight of his carries resulted in first downs, while only two were stuffed, and both of those came with Tennessee ahead by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
  2016 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 21 114 2 2/2 95 1 94 49 44 10 PIT -4.7% Opponent adjustments can and will fluctuate over the rest of the season, but right now this was the best game a running back has had in 2016. Touchdown runs of 32 and 14 yards, five other first downs on the ground, while getting hit for no gain or a loss three times. His best catch was his 83-yard touchdown on second-and-18, but that 12-yard gain on second-and-8 helped too. (As you can see, this ended up the third-best game of 2016.)
  2016 Le’Veon Bell PIT 38 236 3 4/5 62 0 92 60 32 14 BUF 7.8% This was the best game of the year so far for a running back, but it wasn’t close to the best game of all time (Priest Holmes against Seattle, Week 12 of 2002), or any of the other 23 100-DYAR games running backs have put together in the past quarter-century. Why not? Well, while Bell had eight runs of 10 yards or more (!), he was hit for no gain or a loss six times. He also takes a hit of more than 30 DYAR in opponent adjustments due to playing the Bills and their stinky, stinky defense. Oh, and three of Bell’s receptions also gained 10-plus yards, including a pair of third-down conversions. (And, as you can see, this ended up the fourth-best game of 2016.)
  2017 Alvin Kamara NO 5 87 1 6/6 101 1 91 26 66 12 LAR -9.8% Kamara’s rushing value was basically nil outside his 74-yard touchdown. But five of his six receptions produced first downs, including a fourth-down conversion, and the other was a 9-yard gain on first-and-20.

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