Sunday, December 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

With passing trend, is Peterson last great back?

Adrian Peterson, Chris Conte

FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2013, file photo, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, left, tries to break a tackle from Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Minneapolis. Long before quarterbacks took center stage, the NFL was a running backs league. From Red Grange to Jim Brown to O.J. Simpson to Walter Payton to Emmitt Smith, the workhorse back has been a symbol of toughness and perseverance. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File)

By
From page B1 | August 17, 2014 |

MANKATO, Minn. — Jim Brown spinning his way through the line and breaking loose in the secondary with a burst of speed.

Walter Payton lowering a stiff arm and tearing away from the tackler with those long, almost-straight-leg strides.

Barry Sanders slithering around in the backfield and finding a seam to dart through.

Those are the enduring images of grit, perseverance and even elegance on which the NFL’s multibillion-dollar empire was first built.

These days the workhorses have become a fading breed. Quarterbacks are the unquestioned stars of the modern game.

“We’re not getting the ball 30 times or 20-something times a game. Sometimes I get the ball 10 times and the rest of it is catches,” Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles said. “It’s just the way they use me now. The game has changed.”

Adrian Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season rushing record in 2012 on his way to winning the league’s MVP award for Minnesota. At this rate, though, Peterson could be the last running back to get one. Even he, with that relentless nature and throwback style, has acknowledged an acceptance of the shift in this role.

“I’m trying to win a championship, so if that’s taking less of a pounding and being more productive in the pass game, I’m all in for it,” Peterson said.

At age 29, Peterson is perhaps the NFL’s last great workhorse running back.

Maybe someone a year or two younger like Charles or Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch or Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy will pass Peterson on the all-time list and defy the trend with a productive career into his mid-30s. But there are many signs that won’t happen:

— For the second straight draft, no running backs were selected in the first round, an absence not seen since 1963. Over the last five years, a total of seven running backs were first-round picks. From 2000-2004, there were 15. From 1985-1989, there were 25.

— Last year, only McCoy and Lynch ran the ball 300 or more times. In 2003, 13 players did that.

— Only nine teams in the league last season had one player take 60 percent or more of their rushing attempts, down from 14 in 2003 and 14 in 1998. Nine teams also had two players with 30 percent or more carries last year, up from five in 2003.

— Last season’s leader in team rushing attempt percentage was Chicago’s Matt Forte with 72 percent, and he’s not close to appearing on an all-time list. According to STATS research, the most recent player in the top 20 was Edgerrin James with 81 percent for Arizona in 2007. Even Peterson has never topped 72 percent in his career. James has the most in history, according to STATS, with 89 percent for Indianapolis in 2000.

— Only two of the last 10 Super Bowl champions have featured a 300-carry running back: Lynch last season and Corey Dillon for New England in 2004-05. The New York Giants finished last in the league in rushing in 2011 and still went on to win the title.

So how in the name of Emmitt Smith did the game get to this point?

With players bigger, faster and stronger, the guys running the ball now are simply more prone to getting beat up than their predecessors from the previous generations.

Teams must constantly develop replacements not only for down the road when the featured runner turns 30 but for in-game breaks to keep him fresh. The committee approach can also help prevent the defense from getting too comfortable with one particular style. The evolution of the passing game, with Charles and the Chiefs as an example, has also essentially transformed several running plays per game into short throws.

Thus, teams have a hard time justifying paying running backs as their franchise players. Peterson is the outlier with a salary cap hit this year of more than $14 million. The next-closest running back is McCoy at $9.7 million. The money has been shifting not only toward the quarterbacks, but also the guys paid to protect them or catch their spirals. Even the guys that try to sack quarterbacks and intercept passes are making more than running backs.

The Seahawks were champions with Lynch as a bruising old-school running back, and San Francisco has been one of the league’s best teams lately with a similar approach behind Frank Gore. Those teams also feature quarterbacks with exceptional running ability and the read option as a staple of their playbooks. The way they move the ball is far different than when the Bears used to build their offense around Payton.

Fundamental changes have taken place. The NFL might not ever see another 400-carry running back. But maybe it’s wise.

“If you’re looking at what’s going on here lately you’d think it’s been devalued a little bit, just from a numbers standpoint and money-wise, too. But you always hear the league’s kind of cyclical,” Vikings fullback Jerome Felton said. “I think if you look at teams that are successful, they do run the football. There’s only so many Tom Bradys. There’s only so many Peyton Mannings. So unless you have one of those guys, it’s important to be able to run.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Shining bright for all to see: Locals deck out yards, homes

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
The Salvation Army serves 1,000-plus across 2 days

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 6 Comments | Gallery

Blue Christmas service offers reflection, hope

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
Time for annual Solano County quiz

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

State Fair scholarship applications available

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Bevy of holiday activities at Western Railway Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Get tested, know your status

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: C4

 
 
New development fees start Jan. 1 in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

Free New Year’s celebration slated

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
A word of warning for Senator Warren

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7, 8 Comments

 
New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

By Tanya Perez | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Dec. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Sky-high price has VA rationing hep C drug

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

.

US / World

Air Force admits nuke flaws, but will fixes work?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
 
Officials: Missing dog was dyed to deceive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Immigrants build document trails to remain in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California officer kills teen after machete attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
4 teens die in fiery head-on crash in Pennsylvania

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

2 dozen injured in southern Indiana bus crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Texas ranchers seeking alternative incomes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
North Korea proposes joint probe over Sony hacking

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

2 car bombs rock southern Sweden’s city of Malmo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Bombings kill 12 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

US sends 4 Afghans back home from Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Panama’s Noriega in prison 25 years post-invasion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Burying the dead after Pakistan’s school massacre

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
A chance to breach divide for young in Cuba and US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
New school finance strategy lacks accountability

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Season’s greetings from the Obamas

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Sound off for Dec. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 4 Comments

 
Why celebrate Christmas?

By Noel Reese | From Page: C3, 2 Comments

Vatican offers olive branch to US nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

 
Horoscopes: Dec. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Should I ask grandson why we weren’t included in wedding photos?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

Review: ‘Five’ by Ursula Archer is intriguing

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Publisher hopes to sell books through Twitter

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Chris Colfer has multi-book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Interim coaching jobs present challenges in bowls

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers squander 21-point lead in 4th straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

New Giants 3B McGehee eager to play back home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Eagles near elimination, fall 27-24 to Redskins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Raiders place cornerback Brown on injured reserve

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No. 11 Lady Vols trounce No. 7 Stanford 59-40

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Big moves bring big hope for Chicago baseball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
US skier Nyman wins Gardena downhill for 3rd time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Vonn wins women’s World Cup downhill in France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
.

Business

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
On the money: 4 ways to hold on to your cash when renting a car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Recalls this week: Bean bag chairs, toy monkeys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Scarecrows outnumber people in dying Japan town

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

.

Obituaries

Barbara Jean Bidstrup Braker

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Perry Michael Smetts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Luzdivina B. Banks

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Arnold Howard Evans

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Anthony Hanson Elder

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Bart Ferro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dominic C. Scolaro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics