Tuesday, January 03, 2012

More impressive? Matthew Stafford's 5,000 yards passing or Barry Sanders 2,000 yards rushing?

When Barry Sanders topped the 2,000-yard rushing mark in 1997 at the Silverdome during a late-season game vs. the New York Jets, it was the cause of a big celebration. Sanders was carried off the field on the shoulders of his linemen, who loved him. It had been much-anticipated.
When Matthew Stafford topped 5,000 yards passing in Green Bay Sunday, it didn't get nearly as much fanfare.
Yet, the accomplishment can be looked upon as even more impressive.
Only four quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have thrown for 5,000 yards or more - Stafford, Drew Brees (twice), Tom Brady and Dan Marino. Six running backs have rushed for 2,000 or more yards in a season- Sanders, Eric Dickerson, O.J. Simpson, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson.
Era does have something to do with it. The season Sanders rushed for 2,000 yards (2,053 to be exact), no NFL QB threw for as many as 4,000 yards. This season there were 10 quarterbacks who threw for more than 4,000 yards. Sanders' easily won the rushing title in 1997 (Davis was second at 1,750 yards). Brees and Brady both threw for more yards than Stafford this season.
The argument that the NFL is now just a passing league and there won't be another 2,000 yard rusher for many years doesn't necessarily hold water, however. Johnson did it as recently as 2009 and Lewis in 2003.
Me? I think the 2,000 yards rushing by Sanders was a little more of an achievement under the circumstances, but it is splitting hairs. It is amazing what Stafford has accomplished this season.
And it was unexpected. When he was struggling with a finger injury such sparkling final numbers seemed like a pipe dream.
Like Sanders in '97, these weren't insignificant numbers. Stafford put them up as his team was striving to - and made - the playoffs.



Blogger Steve said...

I agree that the Sanders achievement is more impressive.

Another thing to look at is that you also have to put it to a context of time. When Sanders passed 2000 yards in 1997, only two people had done it. Now, 15 years later, three more people have done it. Let's see, 15 years from now, how many others have surpassed 5000 passing yards in a season.

2:11 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanders was more impressive based on peers and defenses in those times.

QBs today throw screens, push passes, wheels to backs, slants, etc. that sometimes go for big yards.

It's simply that these big d. linemen and o. linemen are so solid that it's tough to get runs over 3 yds.

Jeez, I would hate to be a corner or d. back in this league now.

They are at a premium, like Woodson.

But given, these QBs can flat throw these days. Plus they are protected by league rules more than in the past.

7:33 PM 

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