Barry Sanders and the 100-yard dash

By Rick Gosselin

Talk of Fame Network

With DeMarco Murray striking the name of Jim Brown from the NFL record books last weekend, 100-yard rushing games are the topic of the day.

Murray rushed for 100 yards in each of his first seven games of the season for the Dallas Cowboys, breaking the 56-year-old mark of six in a row at the start a season set by Brown in 1957.

Brown never rushed for seven consecutive 100s in his magnificent career. Neither did fellow Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk or Thurman Thomas. Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Terrell Davis all had seven-game streaks -- and Murray can leave them all in his dust Monday night when the Cowboys host the Washington Redskins.

But the real accomplishment is way, way off. In fact, Murray is only halfway there. Barry Sanders holds the NFL record with 14 consecutive 100-yard games during the 1997 season.

Early on in the streak, then Lions offensive coordinator Sylvester Croom realized something big was brewing on offense.

“Barry had a couple games in there where he got to 175, 200 yards,” Croom said. “When a guy gets 175 yards, you start to realize he has a chance to hit something really, really special. The players started to realize it.

“But we were just trying to win games. It was never about Barry and trying to get him 2,000 yards. I’m sure Barry is glad he got it now, but it was never about him or how many carries he was going to get. We wanted to win games and we knew he gave us our best chance.”

Two moments stood out for Croom that season. The first came in Tampa in October against the Buccaneers.

“I have such great admiration for John Lynch,” Croom said. “He was as good a strong safety as I’d seen since I’ve been in the league. You were always worried about blocking him.

“On one play we had a nice hole off a zone block but Lynch came right down and filled the hole. We didn’t even block the guy. He’s standing right there -- and Barry beat him in the hole and went 80 yards for a touchdown. That was John Lynch. That tells you how great Barry Sanders was. You’re talking about one of the best safeties ever to play the game.”

Sanders rushed for 215 yards that day, the first of his two 200-yard games that season.

The second memorable moment for Croom came in the season finale against the Jets in December. Sanders entered the game needing 131 yards to reach the 2,000 plateau. But the Lions were having trouble converting their third downs to keep the offense on the field. At halftime, Sanders was sitting on 20 yards in eight carries.

“We pretty much had run out of third down plays,” Croom said. “A couple of coaches had some ideas and I finally said, `We’re just going to give it to Barry.’ So we were in a third-and-3 and called a draw. He went 47 yards with it.”

Sanders added another 53-yarder on a draw in the fourth quarter and wound up with 184 yards -- and his 2,000-yard season -- on the day.

“He’s a special player, a special guy,” said Croom, now the running back coach of the Titans. “One of the all-time greats. Watching the tapes now, all these years later, and you still say, `Wow.’ I wish I had saved some of those (film) cut-ups. Some of the things you saw then you won’t see any time soon.”

Courtesy of Detroit Lions
Courtesy of Detroit Lions