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Carrying a team

Posted by Chase Stuart on November 21, 2010

At one point in the third quarter of yesterday's Panthers-Ravens game, Mike Goodson had 101 yards from scrimmage. At that same time, Carolina had 101 total yards of offense. Because yardage lost due to sacks are deducted from team totals, it's possible for one player to actually outgain his own team. In this instance, Steve Smith had 12 yards on two catches, the Panthers had been sacked two times for -12 yards, and every other touch in the game went to Goodson. These events made me wonder: has any player actually outgained his own team?

Since 1960, seven players have done that. Another two exactly tied their team's production. Let's stroll down memory lane:

#9) Rickey Watts. The Chicago Bears were 3-8 when the Detroit Lions came to town in late November, 1981. The Lions had allowed 20 points in each of their past four games, and were a game under .500. On the surface, a generic late-season game between two bad teams. But on a cold day in Chicago, history would be made. Vince Evans completed just 4 of 19 passes for 21 yards -- with two interceptions. Bob Avellini relieved him, and went 3 of 10 for 20 yards, with a pick. Bob Parsons threw an incomplete pass, too. But Detroit's coverage skills were matched by their pass rushing ability, as the Lions registered 7 quarterback sacks. All told, Bears quarterbacks dropped back 37 times for -20 yards and 3 interceptions (ANY/A of -4.2). Chicago scored just 7 points, courtesy of a 92-yard interception return by Todd Bell. Throw in 44 rushing yards, and the Bears were held to just 24 yards on the day, a number equaled by Watts on two receptions. The 24 yards of total offense is still the 3rd lowest figure in NFL history, with only the "Water Polo" game in 1940 producing more ineptitude. The Bears gained just four first downs. But there will be more from this game in a bit.

#8) Clark Gaines. Gaines pops up in trivia questions and PFR queries every once in awhile thanks to a 17-catch game against the 49ers in 1980. But four years earlier, as a rookie, he shouldered even more of his team's load. By 4 PM on Sunday, December 12th, the Jets season was officially over. But the rest of the offense decided to end things three hours earlier. During the last week of the regular season, Lou Holtz stepped down as head coach, leaving former New England coach Mike Holovak as the lame duck for the season finale. With the 9-4 Bengals coming into Shea Stadium, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. Cincinnati won 42-3, and embarassed Joe Namath in his final game. Namath completed just 4 of 15 passes for 20 yards, with a long of six. And, of course, threw 4 interceptions. Richard Todd wasn't much better, going 3-13 for 23 yards with 2 interceptions and a safety. All told, on 32 dropbacks, Jets quarterbacks gained just 8 yards. Gaines rushed 18 times for 51 yards and caught 3 passes for 21 yards. His 72 yards from scrimmage exactly matched the Jets' output that day.

#7) Billy Stacy. Quarterback Sam Etcheverry set a ton of passing records for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL in the '50s; in 1961, he headed to St. Louis to play in the NFL. As a 31-year-old rookie, he started the Cardinals' opener the Giants. St. Louis won, 21-10, and outgained New York 239-157. The next two weeks the Cards combined for over 550 yards and scored 47 points. Call it a mild shock, then, that on October 8th, the Giants visited Chicago for the rematch and held the offense to only 5 first downs. Etcheverry's day ended after seven passes; in came Ralph Guglielmi. Guglielmi, like Etcheverry, also starred in a different league in the '50s. He was the quarterback of two Notre Dame teams in '53 and '54 that began the season #1 but failed to go through the scheduled unscathed. Against the Giants, Gulielmi made the fun index proud. Of his 13 passes, 6 fell to the ground. Of the other seven, 3 were intercepted and four went for 178 yards, including an 80-yard strike to Stacy. Stacy had 3 catches for 161 yards, just outpacing the Cardinals' 160 total yards of offense. Outside of Stacy's three catches, the Cardinals had 26 dropbacks that netted -29 yards. Throw in 7 turnovers and just 17 carries for 28 yards, and you can say the Giants defense had a pretty good day. Except when it came to Stacy.

#6) Clarence Peaks. In 1960, Buck Shaw's Philadelphia Eagles handed Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr the only playoff loss of their careers. The two weren't on each other's schedules in 1961, so Lombardi and the Packers were forced to wait nearly two years to exact revenge. By the time the teams were set to square off in '62, the Eagles were 1-6-1 while the 8-0 Packers were in the middle of one of the most dominant seasons in league history. Through eight games, Green Bay allowed just 61 points. But don't think Lombardi and the Packers would take things easy on a rival that had fallen on hard times; Green Bay was up 35-0 at halftime; Jim Taylor rushed for his third and fourth touchdowns of the game in the third quarter. Taylor's four rushing scores eclipsed Philadelphia's three first downs. Having gotten his pound of flesh, Lombardi called off the dogs, and Green Bay won 49-0. The Packers outgained the Eagles 628-54, despite the Eagles commiting just one turnover. Sonny Jurgensen and King Hill were helpless against the Packers stingy defense. Fullback Clarence Peaks didn't do much, but his 7 carries for 27 yards and 4 receptions for 29 yards meant that he outgained his offense by two yards.

#5) Natrone Means. A few years ago we mentioned Ryan Leaf's horrific 1-of-15-for-4-yards game, the third start of his career. San Diego turned the ball over 6 times; the Chiefs' offense didn't do much, but it didn't need to. The Chargers passed for -19 yards; Terrell Fletcher had two carries for 5 yards and Leaf gained a yard on the ground. So how did San Diego end up with 152 rushing yards? Natrone Means had a career high 165 yards on 22 carries, including the team's only score on a 72-yard run in the 3rd quarter.

#4) Wayne Patrick. The 1970 Bills lost their last five games of the season. They started the year against the defending NFC Champs and soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. Dennis Shaw passed for 353 yards in a shootout, with Buffalo ultimately falling 49-37. It was the highlight of the Bills season. Buffalo lost 29-14 the next week to Miami, and then were shutout in Minnesota in week three. Buffalo would end the season last in the league in both points and points scored. In two games against the defending champion Colts, Buffalo was outscored 67-0. The first of those games came in week four at War Memorial Stadium. Shaw, magnificant three weeks earlier, went 2 of 9 for 30 yards with 3 interceptions before being pulled for James Harris. Buffalo quarterbacks were sacked 9 times and completed just 10 passes; for the day, Bills quarterbacks gained 45 yards on 30 dropbacks, and threw four interceptions. One running back shined for Buffalo, but it wasn't the Juice. O.J. Simpson had the worst game of his career, rushing 7 times for -10 yards. Wayne Patrick has two yards on the ground but gained 55 yards through the air, making him the team's most valuable player of the day. Buffalo had just 49 total yards and 4 first downs against the Colts.

#3) Antonio Bryant. In week 12 of the 2004 season, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns played in the second highest scoring game in league history. The Browns gained 462 yards and scored 48 points; unfortunately for Cleveland, the Bengals scored 58. After the game, coach Butch Davis resigned. The next week, playing under interim coach Terry Robiskie, the Browns lost at home to the Patriots, 42-15. In those two games, Antonio Bryant caught 15 passes for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns; but his best work would come the next week. Playing in Buffalo, Bryant torched the Bills with 4 catches for 37 yards, recording 42% more yards on offense than the Browns that day. The Browns were limited to just 46 plays -- five of them ended with a turnover and eight went down in the game book as sacks. After the first 50 minutes, the Browns had gained just 2 yards; they ended the game with 17. Coach Robiskie thought the game was "too big" for his team. Cleveland had -3 passing yards; William Green had 11 carries for 5 yards, leaving Adimchinobe "Joe" Echemandu as the leading rusher with 13 yards.

#2) Wendell Hayes. When Floyd Little was chosen for the Hall of Fame, much was made of how little talent was on those old Broncos teams. There was even less talent on offense in 1966, the year before Floyd was drafted. Week 1 of the '66 season probably felt like another pre-season game for the Oilers, 45-7 winners. Houston's George Blanda and Don Trull threw for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns; Denver's passing game was less prolific. Starter Mickey Slaughter was a clean 0-for-7. Backup John McCormick threw 13 passes; he completed one to Abner Haynes for 7 yards, 11 to Rice Stadium grass, and one for -8 yards to Charley Mitchell. The Broncos -7 passing yards wasn't the only negative; Abner Haynes had 6 carries for -1 yards; McCormick had a rush that went for -5 yards. By that measure, Wendell Hayes' 8 carries for 38 yards was downright Ruthian. Hayes ended up with 46% more offensive yards than Denver that day, good enough for the second best ratio in league history. Most amazing? In the rematch just four weeks later, Denver beat Houston, 40-38, and gained 362 yards of offense.

#1) Walter Payton. Remember that putrid game by the '81 Bears offense against the Lions? They couldn't pass -- 37 dropbacks, -20 yards, 7 completions and 3 interceptions -- but Walter Payton still managed to eke out 37 yards on 13 carries. Add in his 7 receiving yards, and Payton produced 83% more yards of offense than the Chicago Bears.

#0) Steve Largent and Wendell Hayes. Having trouble wrapping your head around #0? Try figuring out what percentage of their team's yards Largent and Hayes had in two spectacular games. Only two teams in league history have ever recorded negative yards for an entire game. 53 weeks after the opening day stinker against Houston, the Broncos lost 51-0 to the Raiders in Oakland. Steve Tensi went 2/12 for 17 yards and an INT; all four of Scotty Glacken's passes fell incomplete. The Raiders dominant pass rush recorded 7 sacks on only 23 dropbacks, and embarrassed Denver to the tune of -53 passing yards, another league low. This Raiders team was one of the best of all-time, and had 67 sacks in just 14 games. They unleashed their full fury on the rival Broncos on this day, and Denver essentially quit trying to pass. Despite losing 51-0, Denver called 24 runs to just 23 passes. Bo Hickey led the team with 13 yards, while Floyd Little was unimpressive with 7 carries for 4 yards. Wendell Hayes gained 7 yards on 7 carries but made the "big play of the day," a 19-yard reception. Hayes' 26 yards from scrimmage far outpaced Denver's -5 yards of offense.

The 1979 Seattle Seahawks had a good offense, ranking 4th in points scored. In week 8, they won 34-14 and gained 391 yards. The following week they won on the road, 31-28, and gained 411 yards. Two weeks after that, they won 29-24 and gained 427 yards. The next week? A 38-24 victory and 531 yards of offense. In the middle of that 5-week run? 0 points, 1 first down and -7 yards in a home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Conditions at the Kingdome were, presumably, perfect. Jim Zorn's performance was anything but: he went 2 for 17 for 25 yards, with both receptions coming via Steve Largent's hands. Largent had the two biggest plays of the day, a 14- and a 9-yard reception. Next up? Jeff Moore's 8 yard run, followed by Sherman Smith's 5 yard scamper. The Seahawks only committed one turnover, but were sacked 6 times for 55 yards. As a result, a league-worst -7 yards of offense were recorded by the Seahawks. The Rams pounded out 303 rushing yards and 29 first downs. The game ignited the Los Angeles offense, which had scored just 36 points in their last three games, all losses. After clubbing Seattle, the Rams rushed for at least 125 yards in all of their future games, up until their loss in Super Bowl XIV to the Steelers.

Here's a list of the top 25 performances as measured by percentage of team yards:

Player tm year gm opp rsh rshyd rshtd rshlong rec recyd rectd reclong yfs tmyds perc
Walter Payton chi 1981 12 det 13 37 0 9 2 7 0 6 44 24 183.3%
Wendell Hayes den 1966 1 oti 8 38 0 0 0 0 0 0 38 26 146.2%
Antonio Bryant cle 2004 13 buf 0 0 0 0 4 37 0 18 37 26 142.3%
Wayne Patrick buf 1971 4 clt 2 2 0 0 4 55 0 0 57 49 116.3%
Natrone Means sdg 1998 3 kan 22 165 1 72 0 0 0 0 165 152 108.6%
Clarence Peaks phi 1962 9 gnb 7 27 0 0 4 29 0 0 56 54 103.7%
Billy Stacy crd 1961 4 nyg 0 0 0 0 3 161 1 0 161 160 100.6%
Clark Gaines nyj 1976 14 cin 18 51 0 12 3 21 0 10 72 72 100.0%
Rickey Watts chi 1981 12 det 0 0 0 0 2 24 0 15 24 24 100.0%
Warrick Dunn tam 1997 15 nyj 23 88 0 9 1 22 0 22 110 111 99.1%
Earl Campbell oti 1981 5 cin 37 182 1 24 1 3 0 3 185 187 98.9%
Ronnie Coleman oti 1977 6 pit 26 114 0 19 3 3 0 6 117 119 98.3%
Art Powell rai 1963 3 nwe 0 0 0 0 8 150 1 0 150 157 95.5%
Gerald Riggs atl 1985 12 chi 30 110 0 14 1 1 0 1 111 119 93.3%
Antonio Bryant dal 2002 16 was 0 0 0 0 7 170 1 46 170 186 91.4%
Garry James det 1988 7 nyg 14 26 0 9 4 77 1 39 103 113 91.2%
Dave Hampton atl 1975 8 min 9 39 0 12 1 15 0 15 54 60 90.0%
Ricky Bell tam 1978 2 det 15 98 1 56 0 0 0 0 98 109 89.9%
Mike Esposito atl 1976 13 ram 13 49 0 13 5 23 0 13 72 81 88.9%
Tony Collins nwe 1982 2 nyj 13 41 0 8 1 9 0 9 50 57 87.7%
John L. Williams sea 1988 14 nwe 10 20 0 5 5 37 0 16 57 65 87.7%
James Wilder tam 1983 10 min 31 219 1 75 5 20 0 6 239 275 86.9%
Don Lisbon sfo 1963 4 det 12 53 0 0 0 0 0 0 53 61 86.9%
Paul Seal nor 1975 9 min 0 0 0 0 3 52 1 25 52 60 86.7%
James Wilder tam 1985 13 gnb 12 23 0 6 6 33 0 9 56 65 86.2%

Minimum 150 yards of offense:

Player tm year gm opp rsh rshyd rshtd rshlong rec recyd rectd reclong yfs tmyds perc
Natrone Means sdg 1998 3 kan 22 165 1 72 0 0 0 0 165 152 108.6%
Billy Stacy crd 1961 4 nyg 0 0 0 0 3 161 1 0 161 160 100.6%
Earl Campbell oti 1981 5 cin 37 182 1 24 1 3 0 3 185 187 98.9%
Art Powell rai 1963 3 nwe 0 0 0 0 8 150 1 0 150 157 95.5%
Antonio Bryant dal 2002 16 was 0 0 0 0 7 170 1 46 170 186 91.4%
James Wilder tam 1983 10 min 31 219 1 75 5 20 0 6 239 275 86.9%
Natrone Means sdg 1998 6 rai 37 101 0 22 6 66 0 22 167 195 85.6%
O.J. Simpson buf 1976 12 det 29 273 2 48 0 0 0 0 273 322 84.8%
John Settle atl 1988 6 ram 13 69 0 20 6 57 0 14 126 150 84.0%
Chuck Foreman min 1976 4 pit 27 148 2 18 0 0 0 0 148 178 83.1%
Walter Payton chi 1985 9 gnb 28 192 1 27 3 14 0 6 206 253 81.4%
Eddie George oti 1999 13 rai 28 199 2 39 6 50 0 20 249 307 81.1%
Jamal Anderson atl 2000 15 nor 18 53 0 14 3 79 0 55 132 163 81.0%
Eric Metcalf cle 1992 3 rai 4 10 1 6 5 177 3 69 187 231 81.0%
Domanick Williams htx 2005 13 oti 22 139 0 44 7 50 1 14 189 234 80.8%
Lawrence McCutcheon ram 1976 5 sfo 16 72 0 9 8 86 0 24 158 196 80.6%
Billy Brooks cin 1977 9 min 0 0 0 0 7 198 1 94 198 248 79.8%
Eric Dickerson ram 1984 10 crd 21 208 0 49 0 0 0 0 208 261 79.7%
Julius Jones dal 2005 12 nyg 23 74 0 12 9 88 0 26 162 206 78.6%
Mike Ditka chi 1961 9 gnb 0 0 0 0 9 190 3 0 190 242 78.5%
Ricky Williams mia 2002 12 buf 27 228 2 55 4 7 0 7 235 300 78.3%
Dick Bass ram 1962 5 det 11 140 0 0 1 5 0 0 145 186 78.0%
Paul Costa buf 1967 14 rai 0 0 0 0 6 163 1 0 163 210 77.6%
Lance Alworth sdg 1963 9 nwe 0 0 0 0 13 210 1 0 210 271 77.5%
Eric Dickerson ram 1984 1 dal 21 138 1 27 2 20 0 19 158 204 77.5%
Eric Dickerson ram 1985 17 dal 34 248 2 55 1 -4 0 -4 244 316 77.2%
LaDainian Tomlinson sdg 2003 16 rai 31 243 2 35 8 17 0 8 260 337 77.2%
Walter Payton chi 1977 10 min 40 275 1 58 1 6 0 6 281 366 76.8%
Joe Washington clt 1979 11 mia 18 56 0 7 10 121 0 23 177 231 76.6%
LaDainian Tomlinson sdg 2003 6 cle 26 200 1 70 3 21 0 11 221 289 76.5%

Minimum 300 yards of offense:

Player tm year gm opp rsh rshyd rshtd rshlong rec recyd rectd reclong yfs tmyds perc
O.J. Simpson buf 1976 12 det 29 273 2 48 0 0 0 0 273 322 84.8%
Eddie George oti 1999 13 rai 28 199 2 39 6 50 0 20 249 307 81.1%
Ricky Williams mia 2002 12 buf 27 228 2 55 4 7 0 7 235 300 78.3%
Eric Dickerson ram 1985 17 dal 34 248 2 55 1 -4 0 -4 244 316 77.2%
LaDainian Tomlinson sdg 2003 16 rai 31 243 2 35 8 17 0 8 260 337 77.2%
Walter Payton chi 1977 10 min 40 275 1 58 1 6 0 6 281 366 76.8%
Buddy Dial pit 1961 6 cle 0 0 0 0 9 235 2 0 235 309 76.1%
John Fuqua pit 1970 14 phi 20 218 2 0 3 38 0 0 256 341 75.1%
Jamal Lewis rav 2003 2 cle 30 295 2 82 0 0 0 0 295 393 75.1%
Barry Sanders det 1994 10 tam 26 237 0 69 1 16 0 16 253 342 74.0%
Warrick Dunn tam 2000 13 dal 22 210 2 70 2 11 0 9 221 301 73.4%
Tiki Barber nyg 2006 16 was 23 234 3 55 3 24 0 11 258 355 72.7%
Ahman Green gnb 2003 9 phi 29 192 1 45 3 32 1 24 224 309 72.5%
Delvin Williams sfo 1976 9 was 23 180 2 80 4 99 1 85 279 385 72.5%
Robert Holmes kan 1968 10 cin 21 158 1 0 5 62 0 0 220 304 72.4%
Curtis Martin nyj 2003 14 pit 30 174 0 56 4 54 0 29 228 319 71.5%
Jerome Harrison cle 2009 14 kan 34 286 3 71 2 12 0 8 298 417 71.5%
Flipper Anderson ram 1989 12 nor 0 0 0 0 15 336 1 50 336 472 71.2%
Greg Bell buf 1984 12 dal 27 206 1 85 2 12 1 9 218 307 71.0%
Stephone Paige kan 1985 16 sdg 0 0 0 0 8 309 2 84 309 436 70.9%
Napoleon Kaufman rai 1997 7 den 28 227 1 83 0 0 0 0 227 324 70.1%
LaDainian Tomlinson sdg 2002 4 nwe 27 217 2 58 4 20 0 8 237 342 69.3%
Jerome Bettis ram 1993 13 nor 28 212 1 71 0 0 0 0 212 306 69.3%
Terrell Davis den 1997 8 buf 42 207 1 29 5 29 0 25 236 341 69.2%
Larry Brown was 1972 7 nyg 29 191 1 0 2 42 1 0 233 337 69.1%
Jimmy Smith jax 2000 2 rav 0 0 0 0 15 291 3 45 291 421 69.1%
Qadry Ismail rav 1999 13 pit 0 0 0 0 6 258 3 76 258 374 69.0%
Joseph Addai clt 2007 8 nwe 26 112 0 21 5 114 1 73 226 329 68.7%
Eric Dickerson ram 1986 5 tam 30 207 2 42 2 38 0 22 245 357 68.6%
Barry Sanders det 1990 6 kan 16 90 1 13 5 135 1 47 225 328 68.6%
Jim Brown cle 1963 8 phi 28 223 1 0 0 0 0 0 223 326 68.4%
O.J. Simpson buf 1973 13 nwe 22 219 1 0 0 0 0 0 219 324 67.6%
Emmitt Smith dal 1993 16 nyg 32 168 0 46 10 61 1 12 229 339 67.6%
Priest Holmes rav 1998 11 cin 36 227 1 56 0 0 0 0 227 338 67.2%
Emmitt Smith dal 1993 7 phi 30 237 1 62 0 0 0 0 237 356 66.6%

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