Derrick Henry Had One of the Least Likely Big Running Back Games Ever


Derrick Henry went off last night. He tied the longest possible run in NFL history by rumbling and stiff-arming and emasculating Jaguars for 99 yards. He added another 50+ yard run. He scored four touchdowns and had over 200 yards. I anticipate that there will be an entire segment of Bad Beats with Scott Van Pelt devoted to the worst fantasy losses at the hands of an owner forgetting to take Derrick Henry out of a lineup or having to roll with him out of necessity.

That far less than 20% of fantasy owners would have started Henry this week is a pretty good indication of how unlikely this outburst seemed before the week. Another is that he is the first to score two 50+ yard touchdowns in the same game in over five years, in a season where until now, his highest rushing total was 58 yards.

With Henry, it makes you wonder where this has been and why it is not more consistent, because he has been getting plenty of opportunities.

It is one of the most unlikely explosions based on how things looked going in. In reviewing the biggest running back games (using yards and touchdowns in fantasy scoring as an indicator), and going through the players and how they were doing prior, and their reputation and name and production, here are some others I came up with.

#1 Jonas Gray, New England Patriots, November 16, 2014 vs. Indianapolis

Jonas Gray had one brief shining moment, rushing for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Colts. Then he forgot to set his alarm, and barely ever played again for Bill Belichick. Gray had 387 rushing yards and one touchdown over the course of his career, if you take out that one game.

#2 Roland Hooks, Buffalo Bills, September 9, 1979, vs. Cincinnati

Roland Hooks had been a platoon back for two years with the Bills. Then, in week 2 of the 1979 season, he had a ridiculous game. He only ran the ball 5 times. He ran for 70 yards and 4 touchdowns on those five carries. He added another 60 yards receiving on three catches.

He scored six more rushing touchdowns over his NFL career.

#3 Derrick Blaylock, Kansas City Chiefs, October 24, 2004 vs. Atlanta

Between the Priest Holmes era and the Larry Johnson era in Kansas City, there was a brief moment where Derrick Blaylock had some big games. That started in an October blowout of Atlanta 56-10. With the Chiefs already up 35-3 at the half, Priest Holmes got some rest in the second half and Blaylock racked up four rushing touchdowns with three coming in the second half.

Blaylock had 186 rushing yards a few weeks later after Holmes had a season-ending injury, and still platooned as the second back with Larry Johnson late in the year. He was traded to the Jets and had 97 total rushing yards after leaving KC.


#4 Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns, December 20, 2009 vs. KC

Jerome Harrison exploded for 286 yards on 34 carries, and scored three touchdowns against the Chiefs. Prior to that game, he had scored zero rushing touchdowns and had not rushed for more than 35 yards in any of his previous eight games.

Harrison was traded four games into the next season, and 371 more career rushing yards, total, after the 2009 season.


#5 Frank Jackson, Dallas Texans, December 10, 1961 vs. Denver

Frank Jackson was a 19th-round draft pick for the Dallas Texans as a rookie in 1961. He had some carries early, but heading into a December matchup with Denver, he had had 70 total rushing yards, and caught 6 passes, in the previous 8 games. But with star running back Abner Haynes missing the Denver game, he exploded for 182 total yards and 4 touchdowns. He returned to getting one carry the next week.

Jackson would transition to playing Flanker full-time and had a nice career with the Chiefs, scoring 17 receiving touchdowns over the 1963 and 1964 seasons.


#6 Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, November 20, 2011 vs. Carolina

Kevin Smith had been the starter in Detroit in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, but had declined, and missed the first half of the 2011 season. He worked back in for 4 carries the week before, and then against Carolina went off for 201 total yards and 3 touchdowns. He never reached 50 yards rushing in any other game that season.


#7 Clarence Williams, San Diego Chargers, September 16, 1979 vs. Buffalo

I’ve previously written about Clarence Williams here, where I broke down the noble and forgotten history of the name Clarence in the NFL. You can’t have enough Clarence references.

Williams had 158 total yards and two touchdowns in the first two games of the 1979, playing as the undersized fullback in Don Coryell’s offense. So it’s not like his 170 total yards and 4 touchdowns was completely out of nowhere, but still, a 4 touchdown game for a guy who had only scored 4 total to that point qualifies to this list. Williams did have only 291 rushing yards in 24 career games before the 1979 season, and he would rush for 300 total more yards and score only 3 more touchdowns after his 1979 season, when he reached the end zone 12 times.