The conclusion of Week 9′s Sunday afternoon slate of games featured Christian Ponder continuing to be an underwhelming mess, with only 63 passing yards during the Vikings’ loss to Seattle at a pace of just (wait for it) 2.9 yards per attempt. We also saw the appearance of the other Eli Manning, the one who’s wayward and a little frantic in the pocket as he completed just 41.6 percent of his passes. That’s significantly lower than his 61.0 percentage on the season, and it comes a week after he completed just 51.7 percent.
Those were hurtful numbers, both for Manning owners, and anyone who owns anyone on the Vikings’ offense not named Adrian Peterson (he was pretty good too with 182 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries) and wished to see them get the ball with some degree of regularity.
But the two most impressive and surprising developments came in the same game.
Doug Martin was runnin’
Look at the list of the best singe-game rushing performances in NFL history and see if you notice something. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
No, the fact that two games (Walter Payton’s 275 yards in 1977 and O.J. Simpson’s 273 yards in 1976) are pretty timeless compared to the other eight in the top ten isn’t what we’re looking for, although that’s pretty cool. Every other game in the top ten is from 2000 or later, while those two performances from two legends remain from +35 years ago.
Look a little closer at that same list, and specifically the bottom of it. During the height of a passing era, three of the top 10 rushing performances in league history have come over the past two seasons. First it was Jamaal Charles with his 259 yards in 2010, and then DeMarco Murray’s 253 yards last year.
And now today Doug Martin’s Madden-like performance tied Mike Anderson for 10th overall, as the Bucs rookie finished with 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns during Tampa’s 42-32 win over Oakland. Yep, that’s 51 fantasy points when we add in his 21 receiving yards.
The yardage alone (27 points) would have won many matchups. But Martin isn’t merely good, and he wasn’t content with just scoring touchdowns. He wanted to run for all of the yards while scoring said touchdowns, crossing the end-zone line after running for 45, 67, and 70 yards.
Yes, absurdity at its finest, and I’m pretty sure Martin punched in a cheat code of some kind that gave him 50 percent extra burst and stamina, just like those Madden cards you could collect in the older versions of the game that kept me chasing virtual cardboard for hours. No, you’re a boring adolescent life.
But we’re not done yet, as Martin’s performance gets even more remarkable. He also made history alongside Anderson by joining him and becoming only the second running back in league history to rush for 251 yards and score four times in a game, and he had only 31 yards on eight carries at halftime. He did it all while going backwards on four runs, totaling -15 yards, and he did it all without Carl Nicks, the Bucs’ left guard who was lost for the season last week. That was thought to be a crushing blow for Martin’s fantasy value. He looks sort of alright still, and hopefully you didn’t mash multiple panic buttons and sell high on him after Nicks’ injury. Martin now leads all running backs in fantasy scoring after starting the day in ninth. Yeah, he was that good.
After averaging 10 yards per carry today, Martin now has 486 all-purpose yards over his last two games. Your worrying about Nicks is easy to justify since he’s arguably the best at his position in the league, but if Martin can maintain the acceleration through the hole that he displayed today, he’ll be fine as long as there’s a sliver of daylight.
So who the hell is Marcel Reece?
Doug Martin overshadowed everything that’s happened in the world today. Tuesday’s American election has been postponed, and Ralph Nader will be the interim president until a nation decides that enough Martin celebration time has passed, and we’re free to move on. Don’t ask questions, just deal.
But there was another outstanding and, well, odd performance in that very game. When both of Oakland’s top running backs — Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson — left due to injuries, someone in the Raiders’ backfield had to do something. So hey, why not Marcel Reece?
The union leader of a dying position at least in terms of how often they touch the ball, Reece is one of the league’s few somewhat commonly-used fullbacks. But not that common, though, as prior to today Reece had touched the ball only 19 times this year, 18 of which came through the air. He’s become a frequent and reliable check-down option for Carson Palmer, and when the Raiders had only one true running back available (Taiwan Jones), they abandoned the run and replaced it with short passes to Reece.
That led to Reece’s 95 receiving yards on eight receptions. Prior to tonight through seven games he only had 177 receiving yards on the season for an average of just 25.3 per game.
This all leads to Reece potentially being a solid deep-league waiver add and possibly a flex play candidate with McFadden now reportedly out with the deathly high-ankle sprain. Goodson suffered an ankle injury of his own and his status is unclear, although the fact that the Raiders’ medical staff didn’t feel the need to do any X-rays strongly hints at a minor twist. Either that or the Raiders’ trainers are incompetent, which is entirely possible.
Goodson is the immediate waiver add for McFadden owners who hadn’t already handcuffed him. But Reece still retains value with McFadden out since his production isn’t tied to the running game, and isn’t effected by Goodson being ahead of him on the depth chart. As we saw today, Reece is used — and sometimes used often — as a short passing option out of the backfield, and a Raiders offense sans Run DMC is a Raiders offense that simply doesn’t run much.
The evidence of that lies in their run/pass ratio in a close game today, as the Raiders attempted only 10 runs, and had Carson Palmer throw 64 times. Yeah, no typo there, and the game didn’t go into overtime.
Oh also, Palmer’s value skyrockets without McFadden too for obvious reasons tied to that run/pass ratio, and his value is already much higher than you think or perhaps care to acknowledge.