Who Holds the NFL Single Season Rushing Record?

Jim Brown at autograph show in Los Angeles, CA...
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While sports are full of clichés it is important to remember that they have become a cliché because they are almost always based on fact. The NFL in 2011 seems to be becoming more and more about passing the ball yet it remains as true as ever that teams that can run the ball will win. A great running back that defenses must game plan for week after week and still can’t be stopped is as formidable in 2011 as they have been throughout NFL history.

The NFL single season rushing record is the ultimate standard of great running backs. Reading the list of players that have held this record is like taking a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame. The first player to gain more than a 1,000 years in single season was Beattie Feathers playing for the Chicago Bears in 1934. He needed only 119 carries to gain those yards as he averaged 8.4 yards per carry that season. Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren broke was the next to breath the record in the 1947 season while playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Van Buren rushed for 1008 yards in 1947 and then raised the bar again in 1949 as he rolled to 1,146 yards. This record lasted until 1958 until it was shattered by a player who many feel is the greatest in NFL history, Jim Brown. While playing for the Cleveland Browns Jim Brown had one of the greatest seasons ever for a running back in 1958. He rushed for 1,527 yards, scored 17 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

The number of games played per season in the early years of the NFL fluctuated. When Feathers played in 1934 his team only played 11 games. The season was standardized at 12 games in 1947 and stayed at that number until 1960. From 1961 until 1977 the NFL season was 14 games. Given those extra games Jim Brown increased the record once again in 1963 during another awesome season. He ran for 1,863 years, scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

It is easy to forget that O.J. Simpson was such a great football player after the horrible incidents that occurred after his career ended, but in 1973 Simpson became the first running back to rush for over 2000 yards in a season. He finished that year with 2,003 yard, 6.0 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns playing for the Buffalo Bills. O.J’s record lasted until 1984 when it was broken by Eric Dickerson. Playing in the now standard 16 game schedule Dickerson ran for 2,105 yard for the Los Angeles Rams while averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring 14 touchdowns.

Dickerson’s total has lasted the longest of all the single season rushing records, though it has been approached. Jamaal Lewis had 2,066 yards for the Ravens in 2003 and Barry Sanders had 2,053 yard for the Lions in 1997.

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