December 3, 2010

2000: Four NFL Runners Reach 200 Yards on Same Day

As much as modern pro football has become more pass-oriented, running the ball is still an integral part of the game and running backs still achieve big performances. December 3, 2000 was a day for ground-gaining achievements as an unprecedented four NFL runners gained 200 yards rushing on the same date.

The highest total was registered by rookie RB Mike Anderson of the Denver Broncos (pictured at right), who had 251 yards on 37 carries in a game against the Saints at the Louisiana Superdome. Both the 6’0”, 230-pound Anderson and the Broncos had been on a hot streak. Denver had won six of its last seven games, including four straight, coming into the contest against the 8-4 Saints. Anderson had already gone over 100 yards on four occasions and twice flirted with 200, including 195 the week before at Seattle, making the most of his opportunity to play after injuries had cut down veterans Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary.

Anderson scored the first of his four touchdowns (all by rushing) in the opening period and his second TD, of five yards, in the second quarter put the Broncos ahead to stay. They won handily, 38-23.

Cincinnati RB Corey Dillon, who at the time held the NFL single-game record with 278 yards in a game that he set just six weeks before on October 22 (coincidentally, against Denver), reached the 200-yard threshold for the second time in 2000 with 216 on 35 attempts against the 3-9 Arizona Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals had not been as successful as the 6’1”, 225-pound fourth-year running back out of Washington – they were 2-10 entering the game and had lost four straight.

Dillon (pictured at left) set the pace from the start, running for 57 yards on the team’s second play from scrimmage to set up a short TD pass from QB Scott Mitchell to TE Tony McGee. By the half, he had gained 134 yards and scored on a one-yard TD run to extend Cincinnati’s lead to 14-0. It was 21-0 in the third quarter before the Cardinals began to come back and narrowed the margin to 21-13. But Dillon, along with RB Brandon Bennett, keyed a long, 17-play fourth quarter drive that ran the clock down and ended with a 32-yard Neil Rackers field goal to cap the 24-13 win.

At Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium, fourth-year RB Warrick Dunn gained 210 yards on 22 rushes with two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. The Buccaneers were 7-5, and had won four of their last five, while Dallas was a dismal 4-8. The 5’8”, 180-pound Dunn typically split duty with FB Mike Alstott, who was struggling with injuries, and with more of an opportunity to run the ball had his first 100-yard game of the year the previous week (106 vs. Buffalo).

Tampa Bay dominated the Cowboys throughout the game. It was already 3-0 in the first quarter when Dunn took off on a 70-yard run for the first touchdown of the game. He scored again in the fourth quarter on a seven-yard carry that made the final tally 27-7. It was the third 200-yard rushing performance of the year against the Cowboys, who had given up just two such performances over the previous 40 seasons, and also marked Tampa Bay’s first-ever win over Dallas.

Finally, RB Curtis Martin of the New York Jets (pictured at right) rolled up a then-club-record 203 yards on 30 carries at Giants Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets were 8-4 and battling the 7-5 Colts in the AFC East. The 5’11”, 210-pound Martin was in his third year in New York after three seasons with the Patriots and had been to the Pro Bowl three times. He had been over a hundred yards twice thus far in 2000.

The Jets were ahead by 7-0 in the first quarter when Martin’s 36-yard run keyed a drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from QB Vinny Testaverde to WR Dedric Ward. It was 20-0 at halftime, but the Colts came back in the second half to close to within 20-17. A fumble recovery by the Jets set up a two-yard scoring run by Martin that clinched the 27-17 win for New York.

Mike Anderson not only led the day but, of the four, had the highest yardage total of the season with 1487, fourth-ranked in the league, on 297 carries. His 5.0 average gain ranked third and 15 rushing touchdowns second (and first in the AFC). It was the high point of his seven-season career in which he reached the thousand-yard mark just once more (1014 in 2005). He did not have any more 200-yard games.

Corey Dillon was right behind Anderson at fifth in the NFL with 1435 yards on 315 carries. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns. It was the fourth of an eventual six straight thousand-yard seasons and was his highest yardage total with the Bengals, although his career high of 1635 came with New England in 2004. Dillon was named to the Pro Bowl for the second of three straight years (and four overall).Including a 246-yard game as a rookie in 1997, and with the two in 2000, he ended up with a total of three 200-yard games for his career.

Curtis Martin ended up with a 12th-ranked 1204 yards on 316 attempts for a 3.8-yard average and nine touchdowns. Factoring in pass receiving yards, however, he ranked ninth in yards from scrimmage with 1712, the highest total of the four. Also the most prolific rusher of the group, his thousand-yard season was the sixth of an eventual 10 straight to start his career, a distinction he shares with Detroit’s Barry Sanders (Emmitt Smith had 11 consecutive, but that streak started with his second season). Martin led the NFL with a career-high 1697 yards in 2004, at age 31, when he was a consensus 1st-team All-NFL selection. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. The performance against the Colts was his only career 200-yard game.

Warrick Dunn (pictured at left) ranked 18th with 1133 yards on 248 attempts. His 4.6-yard average gain ranked considerably higher, tying him for seventh in the league with Dillon. He scored eight touchdowns on the ground. It was the second thousand-yard season of an eventual five for Dunn, with his career high being 1416 with the Falcons in 2005. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2000 for the second of three times. Like Anderson and Martin, the game against the Cowboys marked his only rushing total over 200 yards.