As Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers in the final quarter against the Tennessee Titans on the last match day began his run, he had already scored two touchdowns. The 23-year-old broke through the defense, but was overtaken by Titan defender Adoree 'Jackson, who clung to him. McCaffrey simply ran on and dragged his 85-pound opponent into the end zone.
This season, it was McCaffrey's third touchdown run over at least 50 yards. No other NFL running back has more than one. After eight games of the first half of the season, McCaffrey has 13 touchdowns and 1244 yards of space, scoring 165 runs and 42 catches.
Normally running backs are among the best in their position when they hit the mark of 1000 yards – in an entire season.
One of the reasons for these special stats is likely to be injury to star quarterback Cam Newton. Newton likes to go for spectacular runs instead of throwing and would most likely have kept the ball in his hands more than handing it over to his running back. In Newton's absence McCaffrey receives the ball an average of around 21 times per game, last season it was just under 14 times. About 40 percent of all offensive moves of the Panthers run over him this season. Despite the immense workload, probably the best offensive allrounder in the league has neither injured nor lost the ball once.
Running is old-fashioned
The era of the running game is actually long gone. Five years ago, DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys was the last to get the ball as often as McCaffrey. At that time he scored yards in 1845 Yards room gain, about 44.2 percent of all plays ran over Murray. Nevertheless, he received only two of the total of 50 votes in the election to the most valuable player of the season (MVP).
Running backs were even more important in the nineties and nineties. But by 2010 at the latest, the passing game became increasingly popular, with successful quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers contributed significantly.
Adrian Peterson was the last runningback to be crowned MVP in 2012. With the ball in his hand, he returned 2097 yards during the regular season, breaking the 2000-yard mark in a season as the seventh-ranked NFL player. Since then, the trophy has always gone to quarterbacks.
Adrian Peterson (left) was with the Minnesota Vikings from 2007 to 2016. He is currently playing with the Washington Redskins
Runningback is one of the most physically demanding and thankless jobs in football. Again and again you have to throw the ball into the fray, where you get a lot of hard tackles. The bodies of most runners are literally worn down in the course of a few years.
Although they show so much physical effort, few running backs are among the top earners in the NFL. Most teams today are more geared to passing, which is also more appealing to the audience. When running backs strike for higher-paid contracts, they often lose the power struggles. Most trainers and managers are considered replaceable.
"Heart and soul of the whole game"
It can not be said of McCaffrey: Already in college at Stanford, he brushed aside his trainer's doubts about his 1.80-meter height and athleticism: "He looked deadly serious in the eye and said, 'I'm running back. I came to Stanford to run, "his former coach David Shaw remembers McCaffrey's first statement," then I knew: the man has no doubt about his abilities. "
Meanwhile, McCaffrey has long convinced others. Last night, MVP calls rang through the stadium. Quarterback Kyle Allen said, "He's the heart and soul of our offense and he's the heart and soul of the whole game, his runs decide the game – three touchdowns today – and he does it every week." McCaffrey had also heard the shouts: "That was pretty cool," he said after the game: "We have a long season ahead of us, but of course I was very happy."
It's still unlikely that McCaffrey will truly become MVP as a running back. But not impossible.