For the past few years, the Detroit Lions have trotted out running backs who haven’t exactly put a scare into their opponents. Joique Bell, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington: It’s been a Murderer’s Row of players you don’t want anywhere near your fantasy team.
The Lions seemed to finally realize that something had to be done to fix this. In the second round of this year’s draft, they traded up to take running back Kerryon Johnson, the 2017 Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year out of Auburn. And it has paid off, or at least it paid off in Sunday night’s 26-10 thumping of the New England Patriots: Johnson became the first Lions running back to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush did it on Thanksgiving in 2013, a 70-game drought that was one of the more curious streaks in the NFL, the fourth-longest in league history and the longest since the Redskins went 72 games from 1962 to 1967.
Johnson needed every one of his 16 carries Sunday to break that streak, reaching 101 yards on his final run — a 10-yarder — late in the fourth quarter and generating a nice ovation from the crowd.
He was aware of the expectations riding on his shoulders.
“I think it was probably the moment I was drafted [I heard it]; I can’t remember for sure,” Johnson said, per ESPN. "I think it was probably around that time. That was the first time I heard it. Obviously it wasn’t the last. But it was the last time I really cared about it. Like I said, I came in ready to work, ready to run. We came in ready to work. We came in ready to run. And that’s how we went through the offseason, that’s how we went through fall camp, and that’s how we went through the regular season.”
Said Lions safety Glover Quin: “We could tell it during the game. We were getting three and outs during the first half, and we were sitting down for five, six minutes. You know, the offense was running the ball, moving the ball, getting first downs, going down the field. He was breaking big runs tonight. We was sitting on the sidelines being like, ‘Man, Kerryon got to be getting close to 100.’ Then he was at 90, and it was like, ‘All right, let’s go get this 100.' "
Some comparison numbers are needed here: Per Yahoo, 107 running backs have combined for 428 100-yard rushing games since Bush tallied 117 on Nov. 28, 2013. Lions great Barry Sanders alone had 77 100-yard rushing games in his career (76 regular season, plus one postseason). He averaged 99.8 rushing yards per game for his career, which ended with his abrupt retirement after the 1998 season. Sanders acknowledged Johnson’s accomplishment on Twitter:
The Cardinals hold the NFL’s longest streak without a 100-yard rusher: 79 games from 1937 to 1945, when they played in Chicago.
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