November 18, 2011

MVP Profile: Walter Payton, 1977

Running Back, Chicago Bears


Age: 23
3rd season in pro football & with Bears
College: Jackson State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 204

Prelude:
Chosen by the Bears in the first round of the 1975 NFL draft, Payton played hurt during his rookie season (and missed the only game of his career) as he accumulated 679 rushing yards. He broke out in ’76, running for 1390 yards on a league-leading 311 carries and scoring 13 touchdowns. For his efforts, he achieved consensus first-team All-NFL honors and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

1977 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 339 [1]
Most attempts, game - 40 (for 275 yds.) vs. Minnesota 11/20
Yards – 1852 [1]
Most yards, game – 275 yards (on 40 carries) vs. Minnesota 11/20
Average gain – 5.5 [1]
TDs – 14 [1]
200-yard rushing games – 2
100-yard rushing games - 10

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 27
Most receptions, game – 6 (for 23 yds.) at NY Giants 12/18
Yards – 269
Most yards, game - 107 (on 4 catches) at Detroit 11/24
Average gain – 10.0
TDs – 2
100-yard receiving games – 1

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2
Yards – 95
Average per return – 47.5
TDs – 0

All-Purpose Yards – 2216 [1]

Scoring
TDs – 16 [1]
Points – 96 [2]

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Divisional playoff at Dallas)
Rushing attempts – 19
Rushing yards – 60
Average gain rushing – 3.2
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 3
Pass receiving yards - 33
Average yards per reception – 11.0
Pass Receiving TDs – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 3
Yards – 57
Average per return – 19.0
TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, NEA
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
NFC Player of the Year: Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Bears went 9-5 to finish second in the NFC Central and secure a wild card berth in the playoffs while leading the NFL in rushing yardage (2811). Lost to Dallas Cowboys in NFC Divisional playoff (37-7).

Aftermath:
Payton continued to be not only a highly productive rusher for another 10 seasons in the NFL, but was also an outstanding blocker and receiver out of the backfield, as well as an accomplished passer on option plays (he was even the club’s emergency quarterback). Payton led the NFC in rushing for five straight years, despite being part of a lackluster offense that had opposing teams keying on him, and totaled 10 thousand-yard rushing seasons. He was a consensus first-team All-Pro five times and was chosen to nine Pro Bowls. The even-tempered player known as “Sweetness” was also an unselfish team leader and hard worker, and was popular not only with Bears fans, but throughout the league. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards and also topped the list in carries (3838) and rushing TDs (110); his total of 125 touchdowns ranked second. Payton also caught 492 passes for 4538 yards and exceeded 2000 yards from scrimmage in four seasons. The Bears retired his #34 and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1993.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/12/14]