There have been six players to run for over 2,000 yards in a single NFL season. So the NFL 2,000 yard single season rushing club is pretty exclusive. No man has had two 2,000 yard rushing seasons and only Chris Johnson is still active to attempt that. Johnson was not playing when I wrote this article about the five best single season rushing performances.
O.J. Simpson was the first to have a 2,000 rushing season when he did it for the 1973 Buffalo Bills. Before O.J. started running from the police he was one Hell of a running back. Simpson rushed for 2,003 yards in only 14 games which is pretty remarkable, especially since teams keyed on him more than most runners. Before knee injuries made Simpson a shadow of his former self, he also had a 1,800 yard and a 1,500 yard rushing season. I actually should have put Simpson on my top 10 running backs of all time list, but Marcus Allen beat him out.
Eric Dickerson became the 2nd 2,000 yard rusher, in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams. Dickerson ran for 2,105 yards Dickerson had his 2,000 yard rushing season in 16 games and averaged an amazing 5.6 yards per carry and scored 14 rushing touchdowns that year. Dickerson was thought to be a little timid because he wore every football pad known to man. But he is in the rare 2,000 rushing yards in a single season club.
Barry Sanders had his 2,000 yard rushing season in 1997 with the Detroit Lions. Barry Sanders ran for 2,053 yards in 16 games and on 335 carries for a 6.1 yard per rush average. Barry Sanders added over 300 yards receiving that year as well.
Terrell Davis had his 2,000 yard NFL rushing season in 1998 and didn’t really recover from it. Davis ran for 2,008 yards in 16 games and on 392 carries for the Denver Broncos. Davis was also the first man to rush for 2,000 yards in a season in which he played for a Super Bowl winning team. Davis’s career was shortened by injuries and he never ran for over 701 yards in a season after his big year.
In 2003 Jamal Lewis ran for 2,066 yards in 16 games and on 387 carries. Lewis was never the same after his 2,000 yard rushing season but did have a 1,300 yard year later on. Much has been said about the Ravens defense winning the Super Bowl that year but the team rode Jamal Lewis hard to get there.
Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans is the most recent 2,000 yard rusher. In 2009 Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards in 16 games and on 358 carries. Johnson promised to repeat the 2,000 yard rushing performance in 2010. At the time of this writing Johnson has 838 yards rushing after 9 games, in the 2010 NFL season. To become the first repeat 2,000 yard rusher and also do it back to back, Johnson needs 1,162 yards in 7 games. To do this Chris Johnson needs to average 166 yards per game for the rest of the season.