Top Five Super Bowl Performances by a Running Back

Running to daylight in the NFL’s biggest game will always lead to immortality. Here are five (plus a bonus pick) of the best rushing performances in Super Bowl history.

5. Emmitt Smith in Super Bowl XXVIII

With the Dallas Cowboys in position to capture a second straight Super Bowl win, 1993 NFL MVP Emmitt Smith made sure there was no chance of a letdown.

In Super Bowl XXVIII against the Buffalo Bills, which was a rematch of the prior year’s Super Bowl, Smith rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries and scored 2 TDs, powering the Cowboys to a convincing 30-13 win. Smith became the first running back in NFL history to win both regular season and Super Bowl MVP honors in the same season.

4. John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII

Nicknamed the Diesel, John Riggins was the power behind the legendary Hogs linemen thar catapulted the Washington Redskins to their first ever Super Bowl title.

In Super Bowl XVII, the Redskins squared off against the Miami Dolphins. It was a game that could go either way as the Redskins trailed 17-13 going into the 4th quarter. With a 4th and 1 looming at the Dolphins’ 43 yard line, the Redskins went for it. What ensued was one of the most iconic runs in Super Bowl history. Diesel was handed the ball to the left, and ran through a would be Dolphin defender. Riggins chugged up the sideline for a go ahead TD run.

Riggins finished the day setting Super Bowl records in rushing yards (166) and carries (38). The Diesel was named Super Bowl XVII MVP for his performance.

3. Terrell Davis in Super Bowl XXXII

Hall of Fame QB John Elway was still looking to capture the first Super Bowl win of his legendary career when the Broncos advanced to Super Bowl XXXII. This time around, he wasn’t the focal point of the offense. Instead the veteran would rely on the legs of his superstar running back Terrell Davis to make it happen.

Davis and the Denver Broncos faced off against Brett Favre and the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Davis provides the support Elway needed to finally be in contention. Davis ran through the vaunted Packer defense to the tune of 124 yards and three TDs. This all while dealing with a severe migraine. The Broncos won 31-24 and Davis was named Super Bowl XXXII MVP.

BONUS: Franco Harris in Super Bowl IX

It was hard making this list because Franco Harris’ Super Bowl IX performance is easily Top Ten and switching him out for any of these wouldn’t have been a problem. The workhouse of the Steelers’ dynasty of the 1970s started it all with an immaculate Super Bowl game. The Steelers’ first Super Bowl win, a 16-6 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings, was won by their brand of play: defense and running the ball. The latter was all Franco Harris.

The Hall of Fame running back carried the ball 34 times for a then Super Bowl record 158 yards and 1 TD. It was the first of four Super Bowls for the Steelers in the decade. Harris’ spectacular performance earned him the Super Bowl IX MVP Award.

2. Marcus Allen in Super Bowl XVIII

The smooth running Heisman Trophy winning tailback out of USC made history in Super Bowl XVIII. Playing against the Washington Redskins, Marcus Allen racked up a Super Bowl record 191 yards on 20 carries in a 38-9 win. He cemented his Super Bowl XVIII MVP Award when he gashed the Redskins with a jaw dropping reverse field run up the middle for a scintillating 74-yard TD, which had set another Super Bowl record.

1. Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII

Even some of the best performances get overshadowed – and some not over time either. It may happen that very day cause of how others performed. In Timmy Smith’s case, the team’s play against the Denver Broncos and the historic performance of his quarterback Doug Williams were the reasons his Super Bowl record setting performance isn’t talked about more.

In Super Bowl XXII, the Washington Redskins dismantled the Broncos 42-10. Williams passed for a then record 340 yards and four TDs in that game (Top Five Ranking) to take home Super Bowl MVP honors.

As for Smith, all he did was rush for 204 YARDS! A record that still stands today. He is the only one in Super Bowl history to cross the 200 yard mark in rushing. Not Allen, not Riggins, not Franco or any other legendary Hall of Famer. Smith’s career was the opposite of those mentioned as he only played three seasons in the league. But what a way to leave a legacy!

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