Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Volume 7, Number 11: Another Asterisk: A Brief History of 2,000-yard Rushers in the NFL

28 years ago, Eric Dickerson smashed O.J. Simpson's record for rushing yards in a season, gaining 2,105, a record that stands to this day.

Here's the thing, though: Dickerson needed 16 games to break that record. When Simpson set the record by running for 2,003 yards in 1973, the regular season in the NFL was 14 games. (The NFL began playing the 16-game schedule in 1978.)

Furthermore, if you look at Dickerson's game log from that season, he did not hit 2,000 in a 14-game span.

  • Games 1-14: 1,792 yards
  • Games 2-15: 1,869 yards
  • Games 3-16: 1,865 yards

Since then, four other running backs have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season:
So, did these backs break 2,000 in 14 games (instead of needing 16 to do so)?
  • Sanders only had 52 rushing yards after Week 2, and rushed for 2,001 in the final 14 games. So Sanders became the second back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a 14-game span.
  • Davis needed 16 games. He barely made it over 2,000 as it was; he did not even get to 1,800 in any 14-game span.
  • Lewis also needed 16 games. He ran for 1,883 in games 2-15; that was as close as he got.
  • Finally, CJ2K's 2009 season was also the result of the 16-game schedule. He only had 468 yards after 5 games.
In conclusion, the next time you see a list for who had the most yards in a season, like this one, put an asterisk next to Simpson and Sanders. They broke 2,000 the hard way--in 14 games instead of 16. Just as Roger Maris may hold the American League record for most home runs in a season, but with an asterisk (because Babe Ruth hit 60 homers in 154 games, but Maris needed 162 games to hit 61), so should Dickerson's record be recognized with such a disclaimer.

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