A few weeks ago, I took a look at the list of wide receivers who’ve eclipsed 200 receiving yards in a single game most often (spoiler alert, number one on that list will not surprise you even a little). But just this past weekend, I watched Ronald Jones II bust out nearly 200 rushing yards in a single game, including a 98-yard touchdown run that earned him a place in the record books.
By the end of the game, Jones fell just short of the 200-yard mark (192, if you’re curious). But the fact that he did it at such a young age got me wondering: which running back has the most games with 200 rushing yards or more? If Jones almost did it at the age of 23, surely there have been several running backs who’ve laid waste to opposing defenses often enough to reach five or six games of this kind, right? As it turns out, that’s exactly the case.
As it turns out, two players are tied for the most games with 200 rushing yards or more. I’ve compiled a list of all 16 players who’ve accomplished this tough feat in at least three separate games, and listed them in ascending order with the duo of record holders coming last. Results do not include games that took place before 1950.
We start with a whopping nine-way tie for seventh place.
T-8th Place: Ten Running Backs (Three 200-Yard Rushing Games)
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
October 16th, 2016 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (204 Yards)
October 23rd, 2016 vs. Buffalo Bills (214 Yards)
December 24th, 2016 vs. Buffalo Bills (206 Yards)
The most remarkable thing about Ajayi’s place on this list is that all of his best games came within the same season. He owes his spot here mostly to the 2016 Buffalo Bills and their inadequate run defense; his performances against them accounted for nearly a third of his rushing yards during his lone Pro Bowl season.
Greg Bell, Buffalo Bills & Los Angeles Louis Rams
November 18th, 1984 vs. Dallas Cowboys (206 Yards)
September 24th, 1989 vs. Green Bay Packers (221 Yards)
December 24th, 1989 vs. New England Patriots (210 Yards)
Bell’s rookie season was one of his best. As a 22-year-old, he compiled 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns, with 206 of them coming in a single game and 85 of those on a single play that put the Bills up 7-0. After heading to St. Louis a few years later, Bell really got going and put up two consecutive seasons with at least 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
January 3rd, 2010 vs. Denver Broncos (259 Yards)
September 23rd, 2012 vs. New Orleans Saints (233 Yards)
December 23rd, 2012 vs. Indianapolis Colts (226 Yards)
The legendary Jamaal Charles didn’t just top the 200-yard mark in these three games. He outright blazed past it. In the game on September 23rd, 2012, he also added 55 receiving yards on six receptions in order to bring his offensive total to a whopping 288 yards. There’s no doubt that Charles could run, but some fans forget that he could catch, too.
Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos
September 21st, 1997 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (215 Yards)
October 26th, 1997 vs. Buffalo Bills (207 Yards)
October 11th, 1998 vs. Seattle Seahawks (208 Yards)
Davis’ three most dominant rushing performances came in the midst of an otherworldly three-year stretch during which he compiled 53 total touchdowns and north of 5,000 rushing yards. He even landed a Super Bowl MVP honors during that stretch, and might have had a shot at becoming one of the game’s all-time greats, but suffered a freak ACL injury near the beginning of the 1999 season and was never the same after that.
Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams
November 4th, 1984 vs. St. Louis Cardinals (208 Yards)
December 9th, 1984 vs. Houston Oilers (215 Yards)
October 5th, 1986 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (207 Yards)
Dickerson was truly a special player in his heyday. His career began with a bang, as he rushed for over 1,800 yards as a rookie in 1983 and actually managed to improve on that the following year despite having fewer total rushes. As part of his whopping 2,105 total rushing yards that year (an NFL record), Dickerson posted two games with rush totals north of 200.
Corey Dillon, Cincinnati Bengals
December 4th, 1997 vs. Tennessee Oilers (246 Yards)
October 22nd, 2000 vs. Denver Broncos (278 Yards)
December 3rd, 2000 vs. Arizona Cardinals (216 Yards)
Bengals fans might best remember Dillon for his 96-yard touchdown run against the Detroit Lions on October 28th, 2001 (the longest rush in franchise history), but before that happened he had several monster games with even more impressive totals. His best game came during his best season (2000), when he had touchdown runs of 65 and 41 yards.
Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams
October 15th, 2000 vs. Atlanta Falcons (208 Yards)
December 24th, 2000 vs. New Orleans Saints (220 Yards)
December 23rd, 2001 vs. Carolina Panthers (202 Yards)
Faulk was around for quite some time before he really got going, and seemingly all it took for him to really catch fire was a change of scenery. After transferring from the Colts to the Rams, Faulk earned three consecutive First Team All-Pro selections by averaging 5.3 yards per carry or better between 1999 and 2001.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
December 6th, 2018 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (238 Yards)
December 29th, 2019 vs. Houston Texans (211 Yards)
October 18th, 2020 vs. Houston Texans (212 Yards)
It’s worth mentioning that 99 of Henry’s 238 yards against the Jaguars in 2018 came during a single, breathtaking, record-setting rush that tied him with Tony Dorsett for the longest of all time. But it’s not as though Henry had a bad game otherwise, either; he added another three touchdowns and 139 more yards on his 16 other carries.
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns
September 14th, 2003 vs. Cleveland Browns (295 Yards)
December 21st, 2003 vs. Cleveland Browns (205 Yards)
September 16th, 2007 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (216 Yards)
Lewis was apparently so grateful to the Cleveland Browns for letting him post his two best single-game rushing totals that he decided to join them a few years later. Lewis’ performance in September of 2003 is particularly special because his 295 yards set a new record for the highest single-game total ever; a record that only lasted four years before it was broken by a player later on in this list.
T-4th Place: Four Running Backs (Four 200-Yard Rushing Games)
Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers
October 19th, 1980 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (203 Yards)
October 26th, 1980 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (202 Yards)
November 16th, 1980 vs. Chicago Bears (206 Yards)
December 21st, 1980 vs. Minnesota Vikings (203 Yards)
Campbell’s 1980 season was the best of his career by a wide margin, but perhaps the most impressive part was the fact that he became the only player ever to post four 200-yard rushing games in a single season (though as you can see he didn’t clear the threshold by much). Those four games account for over 40% of his rushing total on the year, and it’s worth mentioning that his longest rush in 1980 was “only” 55 yards.
Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions
November 24th, 1991 vs. Minnesota Vikings (220)
November 13th, 1994 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (237)
October 12th, 1997 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (215)
November 23rd, 1997 vs. Indianapolis Colts (216)
Those who watched the hall of famer play probably knew they’d see his name on this list. Sanders was truly one of the greatest running backs ever, having made the pro bowl in all ten seasons of his great career. He compiled over 15,000 rushing yards (including over 2000 in ‘97 alone), and fell just one touchdown shy of a hundred.
Jim Brown, Cleveland Browns
November 24th, 1957 vs. Los Angeles Rams (237 Yards)
November 19th, 1961 vs. Philadelphia Eagles (237 Yards)
September 22nd, 1963 vs. Dallas Cowboys (232 Yards)
November 3rd, 1963 vs. Philadelphia Eagles (223 Yards)
Many fans regard Jim Brown as the greatest running back ever to play the game, though that might start a fierce debate at the Thanksgiving table this year if you bring it up. Brown was First Team All-Pro in every year of his career except one, and owns four of the top 50 highest rushing games in the history of professional football.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
September 29th, 2002 vs. New England Patriots (217 Yards)
December 1st, 2002 vs. Denver Broncos (220 Yards)
October 19th, 2003 vs. Cleveland Browns (200 yards)
December 28th, 2003 vs. Oakland Raiders (243 Yards)
Tomlinson is another hall of famer whose place on this list was probably predictable. His 11-year career included seven seasons with over 1,200 rushing yards, and a whopping 162 total touchdowns. It’s almost remarkable that he didn’t have more games with 200+ rushing yards, especially considering his best season came in 2006 when he averaged nearly two touchdowns per game.
3rd Place: Tiki Barber, New York Giants (Five 200-Yard Rushing Games)
December 28th, 2002 vs. Philadelphia Eagles (203 Yards)
October 30th, 2005 vs. Washington Redskins (206 Yards)
December 17th, 2005 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (220 Yards)
December 31st, 2005 vs. Oakland Raiders (203 Yards)
December 30th, 2006, vs. Washington Redskins (234 Yards)
Atiim Kiambu Barber was a running back of an entirely different ilk. Not only did he compile over 10,000 rushing yards over the course of his ten-year career, but he chipped in over 5,000 receiving yards as well, which is almost unheard of for a running back and actually places him fourth on the Giants’ all-time list.
T-1st Place: Two Running Backs (Six 200-Yard Rushing Games)
O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Bills
September 16th, 1973 vs. New England Patriots (250 Yards)
December 9th, 1973 vs. New England Patriots (219 Yards)
December 16th, 1973 vs. New York Jets (200 Yards)
September 28th, 1975 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (227 Yards)
November 25th, 1976 vs. Detroit Lions (273 Yards)
December 5th, 1976 vs. Miami Dolphins (203 Yards)
Criminal charges and police chases aside, Simpson was one of the most formidable running backs ever. Not only was his ‘76 performance against the Lions the sixth-highest single-game rushing total of all time, but his ‘73 season saw him compile over 2,000 rushing yards, which only six other running backs ever managed to do.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
October 14th, 2007 vs. Chicago Bears
November 4th, 2007 vs. San Diego Chargers
December 2nd, 2012 vs. Green Bay Packers
December 16th, 2012 vs. St. Louis Rams
December 1st, 2013 vs. Chicago Bears
November 15th, 2015 vs. Oakland Raiders
Though Brown and Sanders dominate the GOAT discussion, it’s Peterson who stands tall atop this list. In addition to being with Simpson for most 200-yard rushing games of all time, Peterson is in sole possession of the record for the most rushing yards in a single game (296). He also owns the second-highest single-season rushing total in NFL in history, with 2,097 yards in 2012.
Featured image courtesy of Joe Bielawa, via Flickr.