As the winds of change send the game of football to a more pass-oriented sport, some records are bound to be broken multiple times while others are destined to remain intact for generations. Although it has had some scares in previous years, Eric Dickerson's 2,105 yards rushing in 1984 remains safe. But he didn't gain all of those yards overnight. No, it took an extraordinary amount of effort each and every single week of that historic season.
Entering 1984, O.J. Simpson was the only player in NFL history to have gained 2,000 rushing in a season, having done so in 1973. Eric Dickerson and his lineman knew that 2,000 yards wasn't out of the question. After all, he had rushed for a rookie-record 1,808 yards just the year before and felt that had had really come into his own just as the season ended. With their eyes fixed on history, they set out to stake their claim as one of the best rushing seasons in NFL history.
Eric Dickerson's historic season began with a two-yard dash into the endzone against America's Team. Although the Rams lost by a touchdown that day, he still gained 138 yards on 21 carries. The following week, the Rams stayed in Anaheim where they defeated the Browns 20-17. Dickerson played well but was held in check for much of the game, only gaining 102 yards on 27 carries.
Pittsburgh seemed to have all the answers for the Rams' vaunted rushing attack, holding Eric Dickerson to just 49 yards on the ground in a 24-14 Steeler victory. Dickerson wasn't much better the following week, but his 89 yards rushing and six-yard touchdown run in the first quarter were just enough to help his team stave off the hungry Bengals.
He was stellar against a resurgent New York Giants defense the following week, causing all kinds of problems for Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and company. He breezed to 120 yards on 22 carries in the 33-12 win.
The Rams were stunned by a surprisingly resilient Falcons team the following week. Every time the Rams scored, the Falcons would follow suit while holding Dickerson to "only" 107 yards. Still, he came alive when it mattered most, scoring twice in the second half. After his seven-yard scamper into the endzone late in the fourth quarter, his team felt that they had the game won. Alas, those pesky Falcons refused to go away, promptly driving down the field to kick the game-winner as time expired. 30-28, Falcons.
Perhaps he was still angry as the team touched down in New Orleans following that brutal loss. Perhaps he was just focused. Either way, Eric Dickerson rushed for 175 yards on 20 carries in an easy 28-10 win over the Saints. The Rams next traveled to Atlanta to avenge the brutal loss two weeks earlier. It was never a contest as Eric Dickerson scored early in the first quarter to give his teammates and himself the confidence that they needed to win. 24-10 Rams. Dickerson: 24 attempts, 145 yards rushing.
The Rams ran into a buzzsaw the following week. All year long, the San Francisco 49ers had the look of a champion, seemingly having no flaws on either side of the ball and ultimately losing just once on their way to their second Super Bowl triumph in the decade. They wasted little time on the Rams and Erick Dickerson, jumping to and early lead and forcing the Rams to do something that was foreign to them: pass. As a result, Erick Dickerson rushed just 13 times for 38 minuscule yards in the 33-0 shutout loss to the Team of the 80's.
Frustrated with his performance, he took out his frustrations on the Cardinals the following week, rushing for 208 yards on just 21 carries in a 16-13 Rams win. Satisfied, they looked ahead to the mighty Chicago Bears. At that time, the Bears boasted three future Hall of Famers on their defense, including Mike Singletary, a middle linebacker virtuoso and run-stopper savant known for his keen intellect on the gridiron. Though it was a back-and-forth battle for the first three weeks, Eric Dickerson helped pull his team away by scoring twice in the fourth quarter to add to his 149 yards on the ground in the Rams 29-13 statement-making victory.
Football is a team game. Although a member of a team may have a good game, that doesn't mean that his team won't get blown out. The Rams got blown out 31-6 at Green Bay, but Eric Dickerson rushed for 132 yards on 25 carries. Desperate for a comeback, the Rams ventured over to Tampa Bay where they engaged in a surprising shootout.
The Rams were down by nine in the second quarter when Dickerson scored a short rushing touchdown to open the quarter and opened the second half with another. The team again found itself down by nine in the fourth quarter when quarterback Jeff Kemp scrambled for a touchdown and Dickerson added his third score of the day. When the Rams kicked a late field goal, the game was won. 34-33, Rams. Dickerson: 191 yards on 28 carries.
He continued his stride toward history the following week against the Saints, carrying the rock 33 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 34-21 Rams victory. At this point, he and his linemen could smell the record. Against a weak Houston squad and with another battle with the 49ers on the horizon, they knew that their best chance at the record was their home finale against the Oilers.
Led by famed right tackle Jackie Slater, Dickerson plowed through the Oilers' defensive line like a snowplow through freshly laid snow. The Rams won the game 27-16, but the story of the day was Eric Dickerson's 215 yards on the ground. With 2,007 yards, the record was his.
At this point, much of what they had set out for had been accomplished. The Rams had clinched a playoff spot and the rushing record was Dickerson's. But the Rams wanted more. They didn't just want that record. They wanted to make that record historic. So Eric Dickerson carried the load 26 times for 98 yards and a touchdown in the 19-16 defeat.
The Rams lost the Wild Card game to the Giants, 16-13, the following week, ending their historic season. Ever since that year, only Adrian Peterson has come within 10 yards of breaking Erick Dickerson's 2,105 yards. With the advancement of the passing game at all levels of football, one has to wonder how long this record will last.