The Top 10 Running Back Performances in Super Bowl History

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IFebruary 2, 2010

16 Dec 2001 : Terrell Davis #30 of the Denver Broncos is pressured by the defense of the Kansas City Chiefs during the game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 26-23. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Allsport
Elsa/Getty Images

In the wake of the NFL's 44th Super Bowl, it's every writer's duty to lend their perspective, opinion, and analysis on the current title game at hand, while also being reflective and respecting the greats who played the game.

After shelling out an article on the top quarterback performances in Super Bowl history, the thought struck me: Why stop there?

Without further haste, here's a continuation, taking a look at the top 10 performances by a running back in Super Bowl history.

10. Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl IX)

Harris proved to be a fantastic workhorse in 1975 as he toted the ball 34 times for 158 yards, establishing a new Super Bowl record at the time.

Harris also scored one touchdown, which helped the Steelers defeat the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6, after leading just 2-0 at the half.

Combined with a great defense that grounded Minnesota on both sides of the ball, Harris's ability to churn out the tough yards and keep the ball in Pittsburgh's hands, as well as take the pressure off of then-unproven Terry Bradshaw, played a huge role in bringing Pittsburgh its first-ever Super Bowl trophy.

9. Thurman Thomas, Buffalo Bills (Super Bowl XXV)

Thomas is rarely applauded for his great efforts in the Bills' 20-19 loss to the New York Giants, mainly because all anyone can remember from that Super Bowl is Scott Norwood missing the game-winning field goal.

Still, Thomas put up numbers worth noting, and he more than deserves to make this list. With 190 total yards in just over 19 minutes of offensive possession, Thomas could very well be the most efficient back in the big game, ever (actually, he is).

However, the Bills' inability to pull the game out keeps Thomas grounded at the ninth spot.

8. Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl VIII)

Csonka played a huge role in helping the Dolphins win their second trophy in back-to-back seasons, as he rushed for a then-record 145 yards and pounded his way into the end zone for two scores.

It was never really close as Csonka toted the ball 33 times and helped Miami control the clock, eventually crushing the Minnesota Vikings, 24-7.

7. John Riggins, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XVII)

Riggins doesn't own the record for most rushing yards in a Super Bowl game (anymore), but he does hold the record for carries in a game on the big stage (38) and played a huge hand in delivering Washington's first Super Bowl trophy.

Riggins racked up a then-record 166 yards and rattled off a 43-yard touchdown run to put the game away, as the Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins, 27-17.

6. Ricky Watters, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XXIX)

Watters didn't have a great day on the ground (47 yards rushing) but was sensational as an overall threat, taking a long 51-yard bomb from Steve Young that caught the San Diego Chargers by surprise.

Watters finished with over 100 total yards and three scores, although his stellar performance is, and will always be, overshadowed by Young's six touchdown passes.

5. Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XIX)

Craig slips just ahead of his 49ers counterpart, Watters, as he had a slightly more productive game rushing for 58 yards and catching seven passes for 77 yards.

Like Watters, Craig was a very versatile running back who was perfect for the 49ers' West Coast offense, and it never showed to be truer than in the playoffs. It was even more evident against the Miami Dolphins, as he tallied three touchdowns in a 38-16 victory.

4. Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVIII)

Smith helped the Cowboys to their second consecutive Super Bowl trophy in 1994, as he ran the ball 30 times for 132 yards and two scores.

While his stat line is obviously impressive, it's even more impressive to learn that he ran the ball 19 times for 92 yards (along with both scores) in the second half, carrying his team to a championship in a 30-13 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Smith went on to be named the game's MVP as well.

3. Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXXII)

If this were a "toughness" ranking, Davis would arguably be at the top spot, as he played through severe migraines to lead his team to a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in a game that was originally dubbed "the best Super Bowl ever."

However, while everyone was talking about the prospects of Davis's Hall of Fame teammate John Elway winning his first Super Bowl, Davis was busy running all over Green Bay's tiring defense.

Davis finished a fantastic game with 157 yards on the ground and three scores, including the game-winning touchdown run with under two minutes remaining.

2. Marcus Allen, L.A. Raiders (Super Bowl XVIII)

Allen has one of the finest performances by a running back in Super Bowl history, as he rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns in a dominant 38-9 win for the Raiders to capture their third (and last) Super Bowl title.

While Allen will always be known for this overall performance, he's easily best known for his impressive 74-yard run, in which he changed direction and evaded the Washington Redskins, splitting up the middle of the field, and never looking back.

1. Timmy Smith, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXII)

Timmy Smith had one day to shine. He never amounted to anything in the NFL after his moment on the big stage with the Redskins, but because he made the top spot in this list, perhaps he didn't have to.

Smith was a no-name talent who came out of nowhere to drop a still-Super Bowl record 204 rushing yards on the Denver Broncos, as he played a huge part in the Redskins' magical 35-point second quarter and eventual 42-10 victory.

The fact that only one of Smith's runs went for more than 50 yards (58) displayed how effective and consistent he was for the entire game, running all over and around what was supposed to be a very good Denver defense.

Smith's NFL career wasn't much to talk about following the best game of his life, but considering he owns the top game by a running back of all-time, he's probably OK with that.

Honorable Mentions

Tom Matte, Clarence Davis, Jamal Lewis, Ottis Anderson, Thomas Jones, and Eddie George.

For more NFL feature articles, go to NFL Soup.


    Rams-49ers Live Now 🍿

    LA and San Francisco's legends battle for the NFC West title in #BRGOATSim.

    NFL logo

    Rams-49ers Live Now 🍿

    Chiefs Take Down Chargers in OT on Madden GOAT Sim

    KC gets past Chargers in OT to advance to next round of B/R GOAT sim

    NFL logo

    Chiefs Take Down Chargers in OT on Madden GOAT Sim

    Bears Have Open QB Competition

    Bears GM has told Trubisky and Foles they will both have an opportunity to compete for starting job

    NFL logo

    Bears Have Open QB Competition

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL’s Virtual Draft Details

    • EA Sports making sims of players on stage • prospects will choose HS football teams to receive $2,500 grants

    NFL logo

    NFL’s Virtual Draft Details

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report