NFL Week 8 Takeaways: Beware, you’re in for a scare, running backs are running amok

These days the running game is usually done by committee, but these three backs were ready make it work alone

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey and Tony Pollard had days.
Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey and Tony Pollard had days.
Image: Getty Images

For those of us who remember physically putting a finger into a hole and waiting for the plastic wheel to spin back around to make a phone call, we know that the running back used to be one of the most important positions in football. Many of you out there whose football talent would never be apt for the NFL, or even NFL Europe, know that at whatever level you played, the starting running back on your team was a role of prestige.

The quarterback was always the most glamorous position, but a star running back never lacked activity from Pop Warner to the Big Ten. While the running game is again becoming a key aspect of NFL offenses, most rely on multiple bodies to put together an effective rushing attack. Week 8 was a throwback. The day before Halloween, three running backs anchored their offenses with no need for a co-star.

Advertisement

Derrick Henry wants his throne back

Nashville’s king did not have the return from injury that he desired during the playoffs of 2021. Henry might have rushed for 2,000 yards for a second consecutive season last year had he not gotten hurt. However, through the first three games of the 2022 season, it appeared that one of the most physically gifted players to ever receive a handoff might have his better days behind him.

Advertisement

The Tennessee Titans have won their last four games, and currently sit atop the AFC South. They inserted their rookie first-round draft pick, Malik Willis, into the starting lineup due to a Ryan Tannehill injury, but he didn’t need to turn heads because Henry brought the thunder to start the game. He took off on a 41-yard run on the Titans’ second play from scrimmage.

Henry ended the day with 219 yards on the ground — 6.8 yards per carry — and two touchdowns. If this dominant Derrick Henry, that has been flattening and scorching opponents since 2018, is back at full strength after last season’s foot injury, the 5-2 Titans will present significant problems for the elite of the AFC.

Advertisement

Tony Pollard appears quite comfortable as the Cowboys’ undisputed RB1

Ezekiel Elliot is no longer the athlete that was the Missouri State Champion in the 110 High Hurdles. While still a productive back who can help any NFL team, he is no longer a gamebreaker.

Advertisement

Pollard has the ability to use his athleticism to keep a defense on its heels. He came into the Cowboys’ Week 8 matchup against the Chicago Bears averaging 5.6 yards per carry. On Sunday, with Zeke (knee) out, Pollard rushed the ball 14 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.

The Bears’ defense has dealt with its struggles this season, but Pollard didn’t need 20 carries to make his point. This fourth-round pick in 2019 is talented enough to be the No. 1 man on a rushing attack for a team with legitimate Super Bowl goals. As well as Elliott can still gain positive yardage and be of help in pass protection, the star of the Cowboys’ running back room is Pollard.

Advertisement

Christian McCaffrey is ready to take the 49ers to Lombardi Land

The San Francisco 49ers’ best offensive weapon was not able to take the field in Los Angeles on Sunday. Deebo Samuel was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Going into the game the 49ers were a game below .500, and looking far from the Super Bowl favorite many projected them to be in the preseason.

Advertisement

They traded for Christian McCaffrey prior to their Week 7 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was clear that his potential contribution to the 49ers could be massive, but the reality resulted in them dropping to 3-4.

On Sunday, McCaffrey accounted for three touchdowns in three different ways. The one that he ran in was typical McCaffrey, but the one that he caught is one of the plays of the year. Running backs catch passes better than ever before, but McCaffrey made a full extension play that was Cooper Kupp or Davante Adams-like. He also threw a touchdown pass to tie the score at 7-all in the second quarter, making him the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson (2005) to rush, receive and pass for a TD in a single game.

Advertisement

By the end of the game, McCaffrey averaged 5.2 yards on 18 carries, tallied eight receptions, and also threw that 34-yard touchdown. The 49ers needed a change from last season to win a Super Bowl. McCaffrey might be the last squirt of lighter fluid they need to grill the rest of the NFL.