Stats & Info: Darren McFadden

Murray powers Cowboys playoff push

November, 16, 2011

Tim Heitman/US PresswireDeMarco Murray leads the NFL in yards after contact per rush, which has helped the Cowboys win three of his four starts.
Since Felix Jones’s injury in Week 6 against the New England Patriots, DeMarco Murray has emerged as the star of the Dallas Cowboys’ running game.

While the Cowboys expect Jones to return Sunday, Murray will remain the team’s primary back. Murray has forced his way into the debate for the NFL’s top offensive rookie, as debated in today’s ESPN Dallas Hot Button.

Murray has averaged 150 yards per game since his Week 7 start against the St. Louis Rams. In his first NFL start, Murray’s 253 yards broke Dallas’s single-game rushing record of 237 yards, set by Emmitt Smith in 1993.

The 227-pound Murray has been more effective than his smaller teammate Jones at rushing inside the tackles. Jones averaged 4.4 yards per carry between the tackles. Murray has averaged 9.0 yards per carry since he took over as starter.

Murray’s 6.7 yards per rush is the most among running backs with at least 50 rushes this season. He is on pace to record the highest single-season average by any rookie with at least 100 rushes since the merger in 1970.

Much of Murray’s success comes from his ability to fight for tough yards. Murray’s averages 3.0 yards after contact per rush, an upgrade for the Cowboys compared to 2.3 yards after contact Jones averaged.

The rookie has also been one of the most explosive players in the league this year. In Murray’s four starts, he has seven rushes of at least 20 yards. Only Darren McFadden (14.1) has had fewer attempts per 20+ yard rush among running backs this season than Murray (14.3).
In a rematch of last season's NFC championship game the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears and improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2007.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns, all three of which went to tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley is the only Packers player to have three receiving touchdowns in a game against the Bears since 1960.

He's the first Packers player with three receiving touchdowns against any team since Greg Jennings against the Vikings last season, and just third to do so in the last 10 seasons.

The Bears vaunted defensive line struggled Sunday against the Packers, as Chicago was unable to get pressure on Rodgers when sending four or fewer pass rushers.

Rodgers threw all three of his touchdowns Sunday when the Bears brought four or fewer pass rushers. He threw shorter in those situations compared to last season and only attempted two of his 27 attempts facing standard pressure while under duress.

Rodgers' counterpart Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes, but also had two interceptions, his first game with multiple interceptions this season.

Most of his struggles came when he threw deep. Cutler was just 2-of-8 with 2 interceptions when throwing at least 15 yards downfield Sunday. It's the sixth straight game Cutler has thrown an interception of that throw length against the Packers, including the 2010 NFC Championship game.

Since joining the Bears, Jay Cutler has now thrown 9 interceptions against the Packers on throws of 15 yards or more, including the playoffs. That's the most such picks by any player during that time period against a single opponent.

Elsewhere around the NFL:

• Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith had his first three career TD receptions come on his first three career NFL receptions. Smith scored all three of his touchdowns in the first quarter, the first rookie in NFL history with three touchdowns in the first quarter of a game according to Elias.

• The Arizona Cardinals suffered a loss against the Seattle Seahawks, but there was still some reason for Larry Fitzgerald to smile. Fitzgerald brought in his 67th career touchdown reception, moving him into first place all-time in the franchises history for touchdown receptions.

• Darren McFadden had a career-high 171 rushing yards in the Oakland Raiders win over the New York Jets. McFadden became just the third player to rush for over 100 yards against the Jets since Rex Ryan took over as head coach. His 171 rushing yards are the most any player has had against the Jets during that span.
Maurice Jones-Drew has gotten his share of attention from this blog before, and Sunday, he gave us every reason to write him up again, after his sixth straight 100-yard rushing game and late game-winning score gave the Jacksonville Jaguars a 38-31 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Rashad Jennings
But a teammate of Jones-Drew’s actually did something more statistically impressive, via a check on Rashad Jennings became the sixth player in the last 50 years to average at least 20 yards per rush in a single game (minimum five carries). He finished with 109 yards on five carries.

Jennings had a 74-yard touchdown run, which is by far the Jaguars' longest touchdown run this season. The winning score by Jones-Drew, from 30 yards out, ranks second. Jennings’ run ties for the fifth-longest touchdown run in Jaguars history. It also was the only time in 12 plays against a nickel or dime defense (five or more defensive backs) that the Jaguars elected to run the football.

It was the third time in Jaguars history that they had a pair of players rush for 100 yards in the same game. In both of the other instances, the combination was Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.

Those two backs weren’t the only ones to have good games in the early afternoon.

• In the same game that the two Jaguars starred, Raiders running back Darren McFadden had a pair of touchdowns of 50 yards or more (a 67-yard reception and a 51-yard rush). He’s the fourth player in Raiders history with a pair of 50-yard touchdowns in the same game, the first since Napoleon Kauffman in 1997. Video review showed McFadden rushed for an impressive 57 yards on five carries when the Jaguars had eight men in the box to defend against the run.

• Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner also came through with a huge day for his team. He tied Gerald Riggs’ Falcons record with his ninth multi-touchdown game, in a win over the Carolina Panthers. Turner has four games with at least three rushing touchdowns since 2008, the most by any NFL player in that span.

• Though the Redskins botched a game-tying attempt to tie the Buccaneers, it was still a big day statistically for running back Ryan Torain. He finished with 172 yards, 121 coming in the first quarter. That’s the most in the first quarter by a running back since Marshall Faulk had 143 for the Rams in 2001.

Peyton's place in Cleveland

November, 28, 2010
This is turning out to be one of the more lopsided trades in recent history.

In March, the Denver Broncos traded running back Peyton Hillis to the Cleveland Browns for former first-round pick, QB Brady Quinn.
Peyton Hillis

On Sunday, Hillis rushed for three touchdowns -- all in the first half -- against the Carolina Panthers. Entering their game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, Knowshon Moreno and Tim Tebow led the Broncos in rushing touchdowns, each with three.

Hillis is the first player this season with three rushing touchdowns in the first half. In the last 20 seasons, the only other Browns with three rushing TDs in a half are: Jerome Harrison last season (Dec. 20 at Chiefs, second half) and Jamal Lewis in 2007 (Nov. 4 vs Seahawks, second half).

Hillis has 11 rushing touchdowns this season. The only Browns with at least 11 rushing TDs in a season are Hall of Famers Jim Brown (five times) and Leroy Kelly (three times).

He’s the fourth player this season with three rushing touchdowns in a game (Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster are the others).

As for Quinn, he has yet to take a snap this season for the Broncos.

Around the rest of the NFL …
• With their win over the Green Bay Packers, Matt Ryan improves to 19-1 at home (14-0 against NFC opponents). The only other QB in the Super Bowl era to begin his career 19-1 at home is Danny White.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Buffalo Bills have lost three games this season in overtime. The Bills are the fifth team to lose three overtime games in a sesaon, since the current overtime format was implemented in 1974. No team has ever lost four OT games in a season.

• The Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson went over 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season, tying Robert Smith’s franchise record of most 1,000-yard seasons. The only running backs with longer active streaks than Peterson are Steven Jackson and Thomas Jones, who have rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons.

• The Jacksonville Jaguars now are 0-5 this season when scoring 20 points or fewer, 6-0 when scoring more than 20.
(A Week 8 preview from ESPN's Stats & Analysis department.)

Brett Favre says he expects to start his 292nd consecutive game Sunday against the New England Patriots. If he starts despite two fractures in his left ankle, it’s possible he’ll try throwing off-balance more often, so as to avoid any further damage to his plant foot.
This season, however, Favre has been extremely unproductive when throwing off-balance. When he’s been set, Favre has completed 63.1 percent of his passes and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. While he does have five interceptions, all seven of his touchdown passes have come when his feet have been set. When he’s off-balance, Favre has completed less than 50 percent of his attempts (47.4) with five interceptions and a passer rating of 21.7.

As for the New England Patriots, they shifted Pro Bowl defensive lineman Vince Wilfork from nose tackle to defensive end in Week 4, and the switch has had a drastic effect on the team’s rush defense. In the last two weeks against the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers, the Patriots have allowed the fewest yards per rush in the NFL (2.6).

Packers at Jets
The New York Jets pass defense has been unforgiving to quarterbacks throwing deep in the Rex Ryan era. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 37.5 passer rating on throws at least 15 yards downfield the past two seasons. The Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers this season has completed 72.2 percent of his passes that went 14 yards or fewer in the air for seven touchdowns and only one interception. On balls that traveled at least 15 yards, Rodgers has completed 36.4 percent with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Rodgers is coming off his best game of the season when facing added pass pressure. Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, he completed six-of-nine passes with a passer rating of 135, reversing a trend that Rodgers has had when facing at least five pass rushers this season. Rodgers likely will see more of the same on Sunday as the Jets send at least five pass rushers on a league-high 51.5 percent of opponent pass plays.

Steelers at Saints
Opponents have been careful to blitz Drew Brees the past two seasons -- opposing teams have rushed four players or fewer on 75.1 percent of his drop backs. Brees found success against the standard pass rush last season with a 3-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio (24 TDs, eight interceptions). However, in seven games this season, Brees already has nine interceptions when facing four pass rushers or fewer.
The Saints have sent five pass rushers or more on 48.2 percent of opposing quarterback drop backs this season, the fourth-highest percentage in the NFL. However, Ben Roethlisberger has yet to show rust in the face of pressure, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions against five pass rushers or more. When facing at least five rushers, Roethlisberger is averaging an NFL-best 11.0 yards per attempt with a 140.1 passer rating.

Bills at Chiefs
A more conservative pass rush has been paying off for the Kansas City Chiefs. New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been more conservative with his play calling this season than the man he replaced, Clancy Pendergast. As a result, the Chiefs have blitzed less than any team in the NFL this season. Kansas City has sent extra pressure on only 18.9 percent of pass plays, but when the Chiefs have utilized extra pressure, it’s paid off. Through Week 7 of 2009, the Chiefs had nine sacks in seven games. This season, the Chiefs already have 12 sacks through Week 7, despite playing only six games.

In Oakland, the return of Run DMC

October, 26, 2010
Darren McFadden
Much to the delight of Oakland Raiders fans everywhere, Darren McFadden seems to finally be living up to the hype. His four touchdowns Sunday gave him six for the season, already one more touchdown than he had combined over the last two seasons.

And McFadden needed just five games in 2010 to set a new season-high in rush yards with 557, surpassing the 499 rush yards he totaled in 13 games in his rookie year of 2008.

One key to his breakout season is that the ball security issues which haunted McFadden in his first two campaigns appear to be behind him, with just one fumble among his 119 touches this season.

Protecting the ball has also given him more opportunities, as he's averaging 20 rushes per game, more than double his workload in each of the last two seasons.

Known as an upright runner, McFadden has been really effective this season when asked to pound the rock at the heart of the defense. He has earned the tough yards between the tackles, where he is averaging 5.4 yards per rush on attempts up the middle, more than two yards better than last year.

It’s still early, and these numbers could take a turn for the worse as the season wears on. But so far, the explosive back the Raiders expected when they selected McFadden as the fourth overall pick in 2008 seems to now be more complete.

Colts face biggest game in a decade

October, 26, 2010
• While the 4-2 Indianapolis Colts have reached the playoffs eight straight years, and over that span have appeared in a pair of Super Bowls, next Monday's meeting vs the Houston Texans may be the team's biggest game in nearly a decade. Racked by injuries and already 0-2 in the division (including a loss at Houston in Week 1), a sweep at the hands of Houston may put QB Peyton Manning and company in a very big hole in a very competitive division.

• A year ago, the New Orleans Saints were one of the league's most opportunistic teams en route to their first Super Bowl title. After seven games last season (7-0), Sean Payton's club had totaled 21 takeaways. This season, the 4-3 Saints have forced nine turnovers in seven games. And when it comes to taking care of the football, QB Drew Brees has thrown numerous mind-numbing interceptions reminiscent of a young Brett Favre. Brees threw six picks through seven games last year and 11 all season. He has thrown 10 in seven games this season, which is tied with Favre for second in the NFL.

• Last season the Saints (13-3) and Colts (14-2) were a combined 27-5. This season, they’re a combined 8-5. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) have already surpassed last season’s win total (3-13).

Darren McFadden
• Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden has totaled 557 yards rushing and run for four touchdowns in five games this season. The former fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft had totaled 856 yards rushing and five TD in the first 25 games of his career entering 2010.

• Speaking of reclamation projects, how about Seattle Seahawks WR Mike Williams? Selected 10th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, the former Southern Cal star has totaled a team-high 32 catches for 348 yards and a score in six games in 2010. It’s worth noting that Williams totaled 44 receptions for 539 yards and two TD in 30 games with the Detroit Lions, Raiders and Tennessee Titans from 2005-07.

• I’ll try and be fair to Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz but the following numbers are a little disturbing. Take a look at his last three seasons as the Lions (2006-07) and San Francisco 49ers (2008) offensive coordinator, and where the Bears are headed. His numbers as head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2000-05 were somewhat similar.

• The Kansas City Chiefs ran for 236 yards in their 42-20 win over Jacksonville and are now averaging an NFL-high 176.5 yards per game on the ground. It must be the Thomas Jones effect. Last season, the well-traveled running back was the leading rusher on the league’s best running team -- the New York Jets.

• There were nine interception returns for touchdowns in Sunday's 13 games. In the first six weeks of the season combined, there were just 12 interceptions returned for scores.