The Carolina Panthers were blown out 51-13 by the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. That didn’t stop Christian McCaffrey from having another monster performance.
On Sunday afternoon, the Panthers saw their four-game winning streak come to an ugly end in San Francisco. The 51-13 drubbing was the team’s first game at Levi’s Stadium since the Super Bowl 50 loss to the Denver Broncos, and it’s safe to say this game didn’t go any better. The 38-point loss was the Panthers’ worst loss since 2002, and was the worst loss the Panthers have suffered under Ron Rivera. Despite the dreadful team performance, Christian McCaffrey busted off yet another MVP-caliber day against the 49ers.
McCaffrey posted his fifth 150+ yard game in 2019, and scored Carolina’s only touchdown of the afternoon.
Easily one of the few bright spots from Sunday’s loss was the continued brilliance of McCaffrey. He ran for 117 yards on just 14 carries, which marked his fourth time rushing for 100+ yards this season. He also added 38 receiving yards to bring his yardage total to 155 on the day. Sunday marked his fifth game this year with at least 150 yards from scrimmage, which is tops in the NFL.
McCaffrey’s lone touchdown was his tenth of the season, and extended his touchdown streak to five games–the longest such streak of his career. Over that span, he has rushed for six scores and caught for two more. In those five games, he has averaged 163.2 yards from scrimmage in each contest, and has gone for more than 150 yards four times.
Running backs don’t typically garner much MVP consideration in today’s era, but McCaffrey is on pace for a historic season.
In an era in which the NFL’s MVP award is seemingly purely a quarterback award, running backs aren’t often viewed as serious contenders. Since 2000, a quarterback has taken home MVP honors an astounding 16 times. The NFL has gradually become a quarterback’s league, leading teams (and the league as whole) to give running backs less and less value. In order for a running back to take home the hardware, he must put up historic numbers. Fortunately for McCaffrey and his MVP case, that’s exactly what he has done.
Carolina’s third-year back currently ranks fourth in the league with 735 rushing yards on an impressive 5.2 yards per carry and is second in rushing touchdowns with 8. Of the three players ahead of him in yards, two of them have yet to have a bye, meaning they’ve played one extra game. On the receiving side of things, McCaffrey has caught for 343 yards through the first seven contests–good for fourth among all running backs. He also has two receiving scores.
In 7 games, he has 10 total touchdowns and 1,078 yards from scrimmage. The 23-year-old is on pace for 23 touchdowns, which would rank eighth all-time, and on pace for 2,464 total yards–just 45 below Chris Johnson’s NFL record. Not only does he have a real shot at winning the rushing title in 2019, he also has an opportunity to break some major NFL records.
In the past, it has taken record-breaking seasons for running backs to take home MVP honors.
The last four running backs to win the MVP award are Marshall Faulk (2000), Shaun Alexander (2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (2006), Adrian Peterson (2012). All four of them broke major NFL records in their MVP seasons. Starting with Faulk in 2000, his 2,429 yards from scrimmage were the most ever in a single season, a record that stood until Chris Johnson surpassed it in 2009. Faulk was a key member of the “Greatest Show on Turf” while with the St. Louis Rams and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For Alexander and Tomlinson, their MVP cases were solidified largely by scoring records. During Alexander’s 2005 campaign, the former Seahawk rushed for almost 1,900 yards and 27 touchdowns–an NFL record at the time. His 28 total touchdowns were also a new record. The very next year, Tomlinson one-upped Alexander in rushing scores, and hit pay dirt 31 times in total, both of which are NFL records that still stand today.
The most recent non-quarterback to win MVP was Peterson, who came up just 8 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record in 2012. Peterson became one of just seven backs to ever rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, and actually averaged more yards per carry than Dickerson did.
The past has shown that for a running back to win MVP, he must post a record-breaking season–something McCaffrey is on pace to do. While it is far from a certainty that McCaffrey will win the award, he is clearly deserving of any consideration he receives. Aside from two games with the Buccaneers, he has been dominant in every game this season, and has perhaps been more valuable to his team than any other player in the league. No matter what McCaffrey wins or doesn’t win this season, it’s sure to be a historically great one for him.