A running back rarely can carry a team to a championship. Though when one does, it is one of the more remarkable feats in football.
Seven running backs have won Super Bowl MVP, but none since Terrell Davis in the 1997 season. The first four all came prior to 1985, so it’s becoming more and more rare as the league has shifted toward the passing game.
In all, six of the seven Super Bowl MVP running backs have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with the New York Giants’ Ottis Anderson as the outlier. Even though plenty of other superstars performed on the big stage, they weren’t always rewarded with the MVP.
Here’s a look at some single-game Super Bowl rushing records:
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What is the record for rushing yards in a Super Bowl?
These days, teams generally lean on the passing game and a committee approach at running back. As a result, most of these lists will be dominated by players from the 20th century. The rushing yards record is no different, with each of the top four performances coming before 1990.
Four of the five players listed are Pro Football Hall of Famers, with No. 1 on the list – Timmy Smith – the only player not enshrined in Canton. Smith is also the only player listed who didn’t win Super Bowl MVP, as his quarterback Doug Williams took home the honor.
Five players have surpassed 150 rushing yards in a Super Bowl:
- Timmy Smith, Washington, Super Bowl XXII: 204
- Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII: 191
- John Riggins, Washington, Super Bowl XVII: 166
- Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl IX: 158
- Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXII: 157
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What is the record for rushing touchdowns in a Super Bowl?
The older players continue to dominate the rushing touchdowns category.
Terrell Davis stands on his own after his three-touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXXII. Behind him, a cluster of players are tied with two touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Of the players to rush for two or more touchdowns in a Super Bowl, only one came in the last 20 years – James White in February of 2017.
There have been 14 Super Bowls where a player had exactly two rushing touchdowns, but only one player has rushed for three in the game:
- Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXII
- James White, New England Patriots, Super Bowl LI
- Eddie George, Tennessee Titans, Super Bowl XXXIV
- Howard Griffith, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXXIII
- Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXX
- Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVIII
- Gerald Riggs, Washington, Super Bowl XXVI
- Tom Rathman, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV
- Timmy Smith, Washington, Super Bowl XXII
- Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX
- Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII
- Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XIV
- Pete Banaszak, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XI
- Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VIII
- Elijah Pitts, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl I
What is the record for yards per carry in a Super Bowl?
The yards per carry stat can easily be used to cherry pick if you don’t set boundaries. For instance, the player with the best YPC in a Super Bowl game is Alvin Garrett. Garrett, a 5-foot-7 reserve wide receiver, averaged 44 yards per rush in Super Bowl XVII for Washington … on one attempt.
So, for this exercise, we set the minimum at 10 carries. Players with fewer than that were excluded from the list. Just one player has gone over 10 yards per carry on over 10 attempts in a Super Bowl, and it happened way back in 1969.
Only five players have rushed for over seven yards per carry in a Super Bowl:
- Tom Matte, Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl III: 10.5 YPC (11 carries)
- Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII: 9.6 YPC (20 carries)
- Timmy Smith, Washington, Super Bowl XXII: 9.3 YPC (22 carries)
- Clarence Davis, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XI: 8.6 YPC (16 carries)
- Thomas Jones, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XLI: 7.5 YPC (15 carries)