DeMarco Murray had yet to start an NFL game when he came into the Cowboys lineup against the Rams four weeks ago and bolted 91 yards for a touchdown on his first carry. Before his astonishing afternoon was over, he’d rushed for 253 yards – the 11th highest total in league history and, near as I can tell, the most ever by a back who began the game on the bench.
The poor guy Murray replaced was Tashard Choice, who touched the ball only once more for Dallas before being waived six days later with an injured hamstring. The Redskins, of course, claimed Choice, and on Sunday he might make his debut for his new team against his old team, which visits FedEx Field.
But back to Murray and his breakout game. We’ve seen this happen surprisingly often in recent years – a back, early in his career, having a huge rushing day. Since the 2000 season, five young backs have done it, two of whom weren’t even drafted. Heck, the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson gained 296 yards, an NFL record, in just his fifth start (and ninth game).
Here are all the backs who’ve had a 200-yard rushing performance in one of their first 16 games. As you’ll see, only two had one sooner than Murray – the former Oklahoma, uh, Sooner:
● Fifth game – Bo Jackson, Raiders, 221 yards vs. Seahawks, 11-30-87 (his 25th birthday).
● Fifth game – Adrian Peterson, Vikings, 224 yards vs. Bears, 10-14-07.
● Sixth game – DeMarco Murray, Cowboys, 253 yards vs. Rams, 10-23-11.
● Seventh game – Arian Foster*, Texans, 231 yards vs. Colts, 9-12-10.
● Ninth game – Jim Brown, Browns, 237 yards (then the record) vs. Rams, 11-24-57.
● Ninth game – Adrian Peterson, Vikings, 296 yards (NFL record) vs. Chargers, 11-4-07.
● 12th game – Tommy Wilson*, Rams, 223 yards (then the record) vs. Packers, 12-16-56.
● 12th game – Greg Bell, Bills, 206 yards vs. Cowboys, 11-18-84.
● 12th game – Tony Dorsett, Cowboys, 206 yards vs. Eagles, 12-4-77.
● 13th game – Mike Anderson*, Broncos, 251 yards vs. Saints, 12-3-00.
● 13th game – Curt Warner, Seahawks, 207 yards vs. Chiefs, 11-27-83.
● 13th game – Terry Miller, Bills, 208 yards vs. Giants, 11-26-78.
● 14th game – Corey Dillon, Bengals, 246 yards vs. Tennessee, 12-4-97.
● 14th game – Rueben Mayes, Seahawks, 203 yards vs. Dolphins, 12-7-86.
● 16th game – Clinton Portis, Broncos, 228 yards vs. Cardinals, 12-29-02.
* Wasn’t drafted.
Notes: Jackson didn’t just do it in his fifth NFL game, he did it without the benefit of training camp. He joined the Raiders in October, after his baseball season with the Kansas City Royals ended… . Dillon went for 246 in a Thursday night game, which means he was going on only three days’ rest… . Anderson and Portis were coached by Mike Shanahan when he was in Denver. And Foster, come to think of it, was coached by Kyle Shanahan when he was in Houston… . Foster, by the way, is the only one on the list who wasn’t a rookie. He came off the practice squad in his first year (2009) to play in six games for Houston, then opened his second season with a 231-yard rushing effort against Indianapolis. It was just his second start… . Portis is the youngest back in league history to rush for 200 yards in a game. He was 21 years, 119 days, when he totaled 228 in the 2002 season finale vs. Arizona.
Sources: pro-football-reference.com and nfl.com.