Stories from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Archives

By: Jon Kendle

Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.

Rushing Into Record Books


Oct 19, 2021

 

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The Baltimore Ravens rushed for 102 yards as a team during their Week 4 win against the Denver Broncos. That was Baltimore’s 43rd consecutive regular-season game in which they rushed for at least 100 yards, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers (43 consecutive games from 1974-77) for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The Ravens fell short of breaking the record during Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Steelers have held the record for 44 years and now continue to share the record moving forward.

“Back in that time, it was more about the running game, and the defenses were stacked up for the running game,’’ Hall of Famer Franco Harris told Mike Klis on NBC News9 shortly before the Ravens’ chance to reset the record. “Really, what we did in 1976 when they knew what Rock (Rocky Bleier) and I were trying to do (both rush for 1,000 yards in a 14-game season), they knew it, and we still got it accomplished, so to keep it going through ’76 was quite a feat. The defense was stacked against us. They were playing the running game, and we still got it done.

“That doesn’t diminish anything we accomplished in the ’70s. I think it highlights even more. It will be interesting to see how (the Ravens) handle things this coming week knowing they want to break the record. And it’s not going to mean anything to the Colts. They just want to win the game. Although a big part of winning it is to stop Lamar.”

While running backs like Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins contributed to the Ravens’ 43-game streak, it all began with Lamar Jackson’s first start at quarterback in Week 10 of the 2018 season.

Led by Harris and Bleier, the Steelers’ run of 43 consecutive games of at least 100 rushing yards started with Game 13 of a 14-game schedule in 1974 and ran until game 13 of the 1977 season.

Harris helped lead those great Steelers teams with at least 1,000 yards rushing each of the four seasons the streak was alive. Bleier, who was often used as a lead blocker, was second on the team in rushing each of those four seasons.

In 1976, the Steelers became the second team in NFL history to produce multiple 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Harris racked up 1,128 yards on the ground, while Bleier contributed 1,036.

This was four years after the Miami Dolphins’ tandem of Larry Csonka and Eugene “Mercury” Morris became the first 1,000-yard duo.

Talk about rewriting history, that’s exactly what happened in 1972. Five days after the completion of the regular season, Morris received good news that helped him make history.

Morris originally finished the ’72 campaign short of the 1,000-yard plateau, or so it seemed. It was discovered, however, that a statistician’s error on a lateral play from a game earlier in the season resulted in 9 yards omitted from his rushing total. After further review, Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s office informed Morris he was, in fact, a 1,000-yard rusher after the league credited the yardage to his total.

In 1985, the Cleveland Browns became the third team in NFL history to feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers when Kevin Mack (1,104) and Earnest Byner (1,002) accomplished the feat.

The Atlanta Falcons become the fourth team in NFL history to feature a pair of players to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the same season. They did it while adding a first to the record books as well.

Running back Warrick Dunn reached the 1,000-yard plateau against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 of the 2006 season. One week later, he was joined by Michael Vick, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

The New York Giants’ ground attack in 2008 featured the fourth pair of 1,000-yard running backs (Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward) and only the fifth duo in NFL history to reach the milestone.

One year later, in 2009, the Carolina Panthers would add the fifth pair of 1,000-yard running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) and the sixth duo in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

That brings this story full circle.

In 2019, midway through the Ravens’ 43 consecutive 100-yard game streak, Ingram and Jackson became the seventh pair of teammates – and second running back-quarterback duo – to rush for 1,000 yards each in a single season.

With a 17th game this season adding to totals, the NFL could see multiple teams with two 1,000-yard rushers in a season for the first time. Through five weeks, two pairs of teammates are on pace to reach that milestone: Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt of the Browns and Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard of the Cowboys.