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In 2015, there were just 15 games where a player rushed for at least 150 yards in a single game. That’s the smallest number since 1996, when just 14 players hit that mark. Thomas Rawls (!) was the only player with multiple games of 160+ rushing yards, and Adrian Peterson was the only other player with two 150+ yard rushing games.

Games with at least 150 rushing yards were much more common in the early ’00s, but they have not exactly been frequent throughout history. The graph below shows the number of times players rushed for 150+ yards in a game in each season since 1960. Note that in seasons with fewer than 32 teams/16 games, the number of instances were prorated as if it was a 512-game league season.

150+ rush2

The same trend holds up if we look at 125+ rushing yard games, with 2015 representing a modern low. Again, throughout this post, I have pro-rated non-512 game seasons.

125+ rush

There were only 96 100-yard rushing games this year; that’s the fewest since 1994, although there were only 97 instances just two years ago:

100+ rushyd

There were 201 times in 2014 where a player rushed for at least 75 yards; 2015 was the first time since 1994, though, that there were less than 200 such games:

75+ rush

And, the same trend holds up at the 50-rushing yard game level: 2015 was the first time with fewer than 400 such games, and the lowest mark since 1994.

50+ rush

Finally, let’s put it all in one graph:

50-75-100-125-150

And for those curious to see the data in table form (again, remember the pro-rating here, although all numbers have been rounded):

Year50+75+100+125+150+
1960436195844219
19614362031003212
19624412231034013
1963431178803718
1964416194733713
1965396163703312
196643018375248
1967405171803116
1968433196773414
196942917772254
197042816369213
197149719869236
1972542279115327
19735812741183920
1974488205873710
19755262381153415
19765642761364417
19775152481064322
19785142501053511
19794702261125421
19804322021024119
19814662471073819
198239017395378
19834722651366324
19844482481114219
19854642471375525
19864131931044017
1987435216964415
19884102141053913
1989385186853713
1990403181853115
1991383182903510
19923812051043117
19933942101014222
1994369197943715
19954112201103312
19964162151103715
19973982381296228
19984232591536830
19994062281104717
20004262331216330
20014212431286125
20024482371366630
20034392551517441
20044452801798334
20054422681386725
20064552751597027
20074392581425018
20084602541305521
20094282451165624
20104382291245617
20114362371315121
20124342371234624
2013415222974816
20144002011034321
2015387197963715

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Richie

    Did you get a new graphing tool? These seem to have a new, bolder design.

    • Nah – just the latest version of excel. But glad you like!

  • Richie

    The spike of 50+ and 75+ games in the early 70’s is interesting. I think that highlights the prevalence of the 2-back system of the 70’s.

    I did a quick look. In 1972, there were 15 teams (out of 26) that had 2 (or more!) players rush for 500+ yards in the season. (Detroit and Miami each had 3 players.)

    In 2015, there were just 5 teams that had 2 players (none had 3) rush for 570+ (I used 570 to account for 16 game season) in the season.

    • sacramento gold miners

      That 1972 Miami trio was lethal, each back brought different skills to the table. Speaking of clubs with at least three 500 yard plus rushers, the 1991 Chargers come to mind. Bad season, but Marion Butts, Rod Bernstine, and Ronnie Harmon were fun to watch.

      • Richie

        Is Bernstine the only player with a uniform number over 50 to rush for 500+ yards?

        • sacramento gold miners

          No, I think Marion Motley as #76 did it with the Browns. It was interesting how Bernstine kept the #82 during his San Diego career, but when he was #33 with Denver, tore up a knee, ending his playing days.

  • Yazan Gable

    Are Corey Dillon, Jamaal Lewis, Priest Holmes, Ahman Green and Shaun Alexander the reason why the early 2000s have such a massive spike in 150+ yard games? I didn’t follow football then so I cannot think of a lot of great running teams from that time period.

    • Richie

      That was the heydey of the “bellcow” RB. Every team in the league tried to have one RB who was “the man” that they would feed the ball to for 25+ times per game.

      It was just the strategy at the time to have a guy who would run a bunch.

      In 2003, there were 38 players to have 25+ carries in a game. The top 2 players did it 8 times: http://pfref.com/tiny/GllxT

      In 2015, that number dropped to 21 players with the leaders only doing it 5 times each. http://pfref.com/tiny/zuhPa

      The interesting thing is that total rush attempts per game for the league is only down from 28 attempts to 26 attempts.

      So, teams aren’t running significantly less frequently than in 2003, they are just spreading out the carries a little more.

  • BK

    Good stuff, Chase.

  • Deacon Drake

    2004/2005 introduced the rules changes in the passing game…