Outside of the quarterback, running back was once considered the supreme position of value. From Jim Brown, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders, halfback was the spot that most teams depended on to control the game and ultimately their destiny. In today’s NFL it is all about the passing game. Running backs are considered by many to be a dime a dozen, but when you look back through the years you can point to an evolution versus a decline. Today backs are more versatile and have the ability to catch passes and flares, but when it comes to this year’s Super Bowl, Marshawn Lynch is throwback who saves his best for the postseason. It is a little known fact that Lynch, who has four rushing touchdowns of more than 25 yards in the playoffs, has the record for longest touchdown runs which is twice as much as anyone else in NFL history.
With that said, we salute the all-time best who on the biggest stage shined the brightest. Here are the five greatest Super Bowl performances by a running back. (Of the 47 Super Bowl’s played, seven times a running back was the game’s MVP)
5. Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl XXVIII) – Smith’s 30 carry, 132 yard and two TD performance helped the Boys claim their second consecutive Super Bowl trophy in 1994. The most impressive aspect is that Smith did most of his damage in the second half when it mattered most running 19 times for 92 yards (along with both scores). The Cowboys defeated the Bills 30-13 as Emmitt took home the MVP trophy.
4. John Riggins, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XVII) – Plowing behind “The Hogs”, Riggins ripped through the Dolphins' defense (best in the NFL during the 1982 season) for 166 yards on 38 carries as the Redskins won their first Super Bowl and their first NFL title in 40 years with a 27-17 victory over Miami. On a crucial fourth-and-one play in the final quarter, Riggins tore through the line and broke an incredible tackle to put the Redskins ahead with a 43-yard TD run to seal the deal.
3. Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XXXII) – Hindered by migraines, it wasn’t even certain if TD would be able to go in what could be the first ever championship for the Broncos. In what may be considered the gutsiest performance in Super Bowl history, Davis racked up 157 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with under two minutes remaining. The Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31-24, a game that was originally dubbed “the best Super Bowl ever.”
2. Timmy Smith, Washington Redskins (Super Bowl XXII) – A rookie who ran for only 126 yards on 29 carries during the regular season, Smith set a Super Bowl record that still stands by rushing for 204 yards on 22 carries in the Redskins' 42-10 rout of the Broncos. Smith put up a game's worth of stats in the second quarter alone as he ran for 122 yards on five carries (including a 58-yard TD run), helping Washington erupt for a record 35 points in the period. For good measure, he added a 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and finished the game with an average of 9.3 yards per carry.
1. Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders (Super Bowl XVIII) – Even against the league’s top-ranked defense versus the run, Marcus Allen ran for 191 yards on 20 carries in a 38-9 drubbing of the Washington Redskins. And while his overall play was celebrated by being named the game’s MVP, Allen is easily best known for his impressive 74-yard run, where he changed direction and evaded the entire Skins defense. It remains the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.