Are we nearing the end of the 30-carry running back in an NFL game?

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy in Week One was a big part of the success enjoyed by his team as they stunned the Washington Redskins 33-27. McCoy amassed 184 yards on 31 carries. McCoy’s 31 carries was the first time a Philadelphia running back had 30-plus rushing attempts in a game since McCoy had 30 in an October30, 2011 contest against Dallas.

What’s interesting about McCoy’s stat line was the 31 carries. Not only did he have the most carries by a running back in Week One, but he was the only running back to have 30 or more rushing attempts. Week Two had no runners with 30-plus carries, and based on stats from the past several seasons, the 30-carry running back may become extinct. (Obviously the greater focus on the passing-game has been a major factor in teams not running a back 30 or more times in a game. That’s a topic for another time.)

Last season there were only nine games where a running back had 30-plus carries in a contest. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson both did it twice last season. The nine games was the lowest this century.

Going back to 2000, a game with a runner carrying the ball 30 or more times was more frequent. Here’s a quick look at the number of 30-plus carry games each season since 2000.

2012: 9
2011: 11
2010: 11
2009: 12
2008: 11
2007: 18
2006: 26
2005: 22
2004: 44 (most in a season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970)
2003: 36
2002: 26
2001: 23
2000: 34

The nine games last season was the lowest number of 30-carry games in the NFL since 1990 when there was only eight. Looking at stats from 1970 to today (1970 was the first year of the AFL-NFL merger) the decade of the seventies saw an average of 7.7 games with one running back carrying the ball 30-plus times in a game; in the 1980s, the average went up to 16.4 games per season; in the 1990’s the average increased again to 19.1 games per season; in the first decade of this century, that average skyrocketed to 25.2 games per season. Over the last three seasons (2010-2012) the average plummeted to an average of only 10.3 games per season.

As mentioned above, this was the first 30-carry rusher for the Eagles since 2011. The Miami Dolphins, have the league’s longest drought when it comes to a runner with 30-plus carries. The last time Miami handed the ball to one back 30 or more times was in a game in 2003 when Ricky Williams carried it 31 times against Dallas.

Following is the last time each NFL team had one runner with 30 or more carries in a game.

Last season with a 30-carry runner in a game
2003: Miami
2004: Detroit, New England, New Orleans
2005: Dallas, Indianapolis
2006: Arizona, San Diego
2007: Chicago, Tampa Bay
2008: Green Bay, St. Louis
2009: Carolina
2010: Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Tennessee
2011: Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle
2012: Denver, Kansas City, Minnesota, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland, Washington
2013: Philadelphia

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp


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