Top Super Bowl Running Back Performances

The Super Bowl has brought us some fantastic performances by a running back, below are my favorites:

Terrell Davis – Denver Broncos: Super Bowl XXXII

In late 1990’s, Terrell Davis was one of the most dominant offensive players in the NFL. During the 1997 regular season, he ran for 1,750 yards on 369 carries; averaging 116.7 rushing yards per game and ran for a league-high 15 touchdowns. 

The Broncos were 12-4 that season and opened the playoffs against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild card round.  Against the Jaguars, he ran for 184 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns in the Broncos 42-17 romp.  In the divisional round against Kansas City, Davis rushed for 101 yards on 25 attempts and two touchdowns as Denver won 14-10.  In the AFC Championship game, the Broncos were a one-point road underdog to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In the game, Terrell Davis again rushed for over 100 yards as he carried the ball 26 times for 139 yards; averaging 5.35 yards per carry.  He also scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the 1997 playoffs as the Broncos defeated the Steelers, 24-21 to reach their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history.  In Super Bowl XXXII, Denver would face the NFC Champion and defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. 

Super Bowl XXXII is remembered for being one of the best Super Bowls of all-time.  The Broncos entered the game as a huge 11-point underdog to the Packers.  In a shocking upset, Denver beat the Packers and three-time MVP Brett Favre, 31-24.  

Terrell Davis was the star of the day in helping the franchise win their first Super Bowl championship and John Elway finally winning his first Super Bowl after losing his first XXX appearances in the NFL’s big game.   Davis battling severe migraines showed off his toughness as he ran all over the tired Packers defense.  The future Hall of Famer was awesome as he rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score on a one-yard run with under two minutes to go in the game.  For his spectacular day, Davis was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXII.

John Riggins – Washington Redskins: Super Bowl XVII

John Riggins was one of my favorite players on the 1980’s, he was a tough hard-nosed north-south runner who wasn’t afraid of contact.  His number 44 jersey is still one of my prized possessions, I still have to this day.  In my eyes he’s one of the most underrated running backs and big-time players in NFL history, having rushed for 11,352 yards and scoring a combined 116 touchdowns (104 rushing and 12 receiving).

In the strike shortened 1982 season, Riggins carried the ball 177 times for 553 yards and three touchdowns in the eight games he played.  Washington finished the regular season with an 8-1 record, winning the NFC East division.  They had the 12th ranked offense in the league averaging 21.1 points per game and the top defense allowing 14.2 points per game. 

Washington opened the 1982 NFC playoffs by playing host to the Detroit Lions in the wild card round as a six-point favorite.  The home team Washington trounced Detroit, 31-7.  Alvin Garrett had three receiving touchdowns, but Riggins carried the ball 25 times 119 yards, with his longest run of the day being 25-yards.  Against Minnesota in the divisional round, Washington, a six-point favorite won 21-7.  Riggins was a beast in this game, carrying the ball 37 times for 185 yards and a touchdown.  In the NFC Championship game against their division rival the Dallas Cowboys, Washington was a two-point home underdog.  Washington’s bruising running back battered the Cowboys for 140 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown, as Washington won 31-17 to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since losing Super Bowl VII to Miami in January of 1973. 

At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, Washington entered Super Bowl XVII as a three-point underdog to the AFC Champions, the Miami Dolphins.  In the first half of the game the Dolphins scored two touchdowns and field goal to take a 17-10 halftime lead over Washington.  In the second half Riggins wore down the Dolphins defense.  Then in the fourth quarter with his team down 16-13, Washington’s number 44 made the biggest play of the game.  On fourth and one, Joe Gibbs called his trademark play I-Right 70 Chip, Riggins took the handoff, broke a tackle, and rumbled 43 yards giving Washington their first lead of the game, 20-17, with approximately 10 minutes left in the game. The run turned out to be the game winning score as Washington won its first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

John Riggins was named the MVP of Super Bowl XVII, as he set two Super Bowl records: most rushing attempts, 38, and most rushing yards, 166.  The Washington running back was interestingly the first player from an NFC team to rush for over 100 yards in a Super Bowl.  Riggins had 181 total yards from scrimmage, which was more than the entire Miami team.  This is probably my favorite Super Bowl performance by a running back in all the Super Bowls I’ve watched.

Marcus Allen – Los Angeles Raiders: Super Bowl XVIII

In 1983, the Raiders were 12-4 in their second season in Los Angeles, winning the AFC West.  Marcus Allen led the team in rushing with 1,014 yards and accounting for 11 touchdowns (nine rushing and two passing).   He was one of the most dangerous players in the NFL, capable of scoring any time he touched the ball.

The Raiders faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs as a seven-point favorite.  Los Angeles blew out Pittsburgh, 38-10, as Marcus Allen rushed for 121 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.  In AFC Championship game, the Raiders faced their division rival, the Seattle Seahawks as a seven-point home favorite.  Los Angeles dominated the game, scoring the first 27 points of the game.   Marcus Allen had 154 yards rushing, 62 yards receiving and one touchdown as the Raiders beat the Seahawks, 30-14, to reach their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history: first as the Los Angeles Raiders.

The Raiders faced the NFC Champion and defending Super Bowl Champion, the Washington Redskins.  Los Angeles was a two-point underdog to Washington.  March Allen had one of the best performances by a running back in Super Bowl history as he rushed for a then Super Bowl record 191 yards and two touchdowns in Los Angeles’s 38-9 demolition of Washington to win their third Super Bowl championship.  The Raiders number 32 had one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history on a simply amazing touchdown run to give Los Angeles a 35-9 lead in the third quarter.  On the play Allen took the handoff, changed directions, evaded Washington defenders, splitting up the middle and not stopping until he reached the endzone.  While I was at NFL Films, I did a piece on the run and had the opportunity to ask Marcus Allen about the run.  He said, “he made a mistake and tried to make the best of the situation.”  For his amazing performance, Allen was named the game’s MVP becoming at the time the third Heisman Trophy winner to be named Super Bowl MVP.

James White – New England Patriots: Super Bowl LI

Super Bowl LI will forever be remembered for the score of 28-3, which was the deficit the Patriots faced in the third quarter.  New England, who entered the game as a three-point favorite was able to chip away at the lead and entered the fourth quarter down 28-9, after James White scored on five-yard touchdown reception.  After Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal to make it 28-12, New England scored on back-to-back drives in regulation, with White scoring on a one-yard touchdown plunge to help tie the score at 28.   The Patriots went down the field in overtime and the Patriots running back scored on a two-yard run to give New England their fifth Super Bowl title.  While Tom Brady was named MVP of Super Bowl LI, James White could have easily been named the game’s MVP as he 139 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns (two rushing and one receiving).

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Scott has been a sports fan since he received a New York Mets jacket as a toddler. He’s been playing fantasy baseball and football for over 20 years, dating back to Frank Thomas being one of his first fantasy baseball picks. As a professional, he has covered the NFL, MLB, NCAAF, and NCAAB and is looked to as the go-to guy for fantasy sports amongst family, friends, and co-workers.

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