The Five Best RB Seasons in the Super Bowl Era

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2012

The Five Best RB Seasons in the Super Bowl Era

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    The NFL has clearly become a passing league and teams have come to depend on two more running backs to carry the load out of the backfield.

    Those factors leave fewer and fewer big stars at the running back position.

    There have been some great seasons turned in by some of the game's greats in recent years, however, usually leading their teams to the playoffs. 

    After some tough deliberating, I will share the five best seasons enjoyed by a running back since the first Super Bowl.

Four That Were Close

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    Picking only five of the best RB seasons left some amazing performances out. It was hard not to include these three while paring down the list.

    Eric Dickerson, 1984

    Dickerson set the yardage record which has been threatened a few times since, yet never eclipsed. Getting plenty of work in "Ground Chuck" Knox's run-based offense, the former SMU star went for 2,105 yards, gaining 5.6 yards per run.

    Only the fact that he had such a great offensive line in front of him and that he did very little in the passing game kept him out of the top 5.

    Earl Campbell, 1980

    Campbell ran over the league his first four years after a stellar college career at Texas, highlighted by a dominant season in 1980. Campbell rumbled for a league-high 1,934 yards on a crazy 373 carries.

    Only having 47 receiving yards kept Campbell from being on the list. He also led his team to the playoffs with an 11-5 record that earned the Oilers a Wild Card berth.

    Shaun Alexander, 2005

    Heavily relied on by the Seahawks over a five-year span, Alexander capped off that run by going off for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs on the ground, winning the MVP award and leading the Seahawks to Super Bowl XL.

    The pounding he took while carrying the ball 370 times proved to take a toll on his body as he never went over 1,000 yards or played in more than 13 games after that.

    Terrell Davis, 1998

    Fitting in perfectly with the Broncos zone-blocking, one-cut running scheme, Davis was the force that led to back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

    His 1998 season was one for the ages as he went over 2,000 yards leading a Bronco offensive juggernaut by carrying the ball 392 times.  

5. Barry Sanders, 1997

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    Here is the guy many people thought could break Dickerson's single-season record, and he came pretty close in 1997.

    Sanders lit up opposing defenses for 2,053 yards in his usual electrifying way, Barry could make a defender miss in the backfield and then break off a long run. Almost like a punt return every play.

    After being held to 33 and 20 yards in his first two games, Sanders ripped off 14 straight games over 100 yards.

    Only a lack of involvement in the passing game keeps Sanders from being atop this list.

4. Walter Payton, 1977

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    Payton in his third year just plain carried the Bears, running for 1,852 yards averaging 5.5 yard per carry while leading the league with 14 TDs. Payton averaged more yards rushing per game than the Bears passing offense and had more than 1,000 yards on the ground than the Bear's leading receiver had through the air.

    After leading the Bears on a six-game winning streak to end the year and win a Wild Card berth, the Bears were blown out by the Cowboys in the playoffs.

    The fact that Payton put up those kind of stats with no other talent around him on offense and was able to put them in the playoffs lands him a spot on this list.

3. O.J. Simpson, 1973

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    There have been so many faces in the life of O.J. Simpson that it is easy to forget how awesome he was on the field with the Buffalo Bills.

    Four times over a five-year span Simpson led the NFL in rushing yardage, including going over 1,800 yards twice.

    When the Juice ran for 2,003 yards in 1973 he did it in only 14 games ending up with 143 yards per game. Both totals doubled the production from the passing game which only managed 997 yards for the season. 997 yards, FOR THE SEASON! I have a feeling he may have seen eight or nine men in the box quite a few times during that year.

    Even Simpson's best efforts couldn't land the Bills a playoff spot, but he was the Bill's offense on the way to a 9-5 final record.

    It's also easy to forget him as being a top sideline reporter for CBS.

2. LaDanian Tomlinson, 2006

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    Tomlinson had just a spectacular year in 2006. Going for over 1,800 yards carrying the ball while adding 508 yards on 56 catches and scoring 31 times earned an MVP for LT.

    Those 31 total TDs may be a record for a while, I can't see anyone averaging 2 TDs a game for a full year.

    Having a Pro Bowl fullback in Lorenzo Neal plowing a path through opposing linebackers made running up an down the field a little easier for LT, but he definitely took advantage of it.

    A 14-2 season was ruined in the first round of the playoffs as the Patriots rallied to beat San Diego though LT ran for 123 yards and two TDs.

1. Marshall Faulk, 2000

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    Faulk was the most dangerous weapon in the NFL his first three years with the Rams after being traded to St. Louis from Indianapolis. While it is tough to decide between his 1999 season, when he went over 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving, or his 2000 season, I went with 2000 due to him having 26 TDs as compared to 12 in 1999.

    In the 14 games he played, Faulk went over 2,100 yards from scrimmage catching 81 passes out of the backfield for 830 yards while rushing for 1,359.

    Had he played the full 16 games, he may have gone over 30 TDs and 2,500 total yards.

    Faulk won the MVP for his all-around excellence, but the Rams only could secure a Wild Card spot and lost in the first round in New Orleans. I really wished I could have seen that Ram offense match up with the Ravens in the Super Bowl that year. Would have been a lot more entertaining than what the Giants brought to the game.