In 1985, a pair of running backs helped carry the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. The same storyline is playing out again in 2020, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have helped the Browns compile an 8-3 record entering Sunday's road game against the Tennessee Titans. Chubb, a Pro Bowler in 2019 after rushing for a career-high 1,494 yards, has rushed for 719 yards and six touchdowns this season despite missing four games with an injury. Hunt, who is in the middle of his second season with the Browns, has rushed for 706 yards and four touchdowns. Hunt is also pacing the Browns with four touchdown receptions.
The Browns' running back duo has a very realistic shot at becoming the eighth pair of teammates in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Chubb will have to average just over 56 rushing yards and Hunt will have to average about 59 yards over the Browns' final five games to each hit the 1,000-yard mark. They will have their work cut out for them, however, as the Browns' five remaining opponents are No. 17, 12, 5, 11, and 8 in the NFL against the run, respectively.
While Chubb and Hunt chase NFL history, here's a look at the seven pair of teammates the Browns' running backs are hoping to join.
1972: Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris
A year after falling coming up short in the Super Bowl, the Dolphins were determined to finish the job in 1972. While Csonka remained the focal point of the offense, Shula gave more playing time to Morris, who became the NFL's first situational running back. Csonka led Miami with 1,117 rushing yards, while Morris gained exactly 1,000 yards on the ground. He also scored a team-high 12 touchdowns while helping the Dolphins compile a 14-0 regular season.
Fellow running back Jim Kiick, who was forced to sacrifice playing time following Morris' rise on the depth chart, still managed to rush for 521 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season. And with the Dolphins in need of a spark during their first round playoff matchup with the Browns, Kiick responded with 50 key rushing yards that included the game-winning score. He scored two more touchdowns a week later in the AFC Championship Game, as Miami left Pittsburgh with a 21-17 victory.
Led by Csonka's 112 yards, the trio combined to rush for 184 yards in the Dolphins' 14-7 win over Washington in Super Bowl VII as Miami completed its perfect season.
1976: Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier
With quarterback Terry Bradshaw injured, the two-time defending champion Steelers were 1-4 and on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention before Halloween. With their backs to the wall, the Steelers unleashed their terrifying defense on opposing offenses while centering their entire offense on the talents of Harris and Bleier. While Pittsburgh's defense went on an historic tear (they allowed just 28 points while recording five shutouts during the final nine games of the season), Harris and Bleier rushed for 1,128 and 1,036 yards, respectively, while helping the Steelers win their fifth consecutive division title.
The Steelers' quest for a third straight Super Bowl win took a significant blow when Harris and Bleier sustained injuries during Pittsburgh's 40-14 playoff win over the Colts. With Harris and Bleier unable to face the Raiders in the AFC title game, the Steelers' offense managed to score just one touchdown in a 24-7 loss. Harris and Bleier would later help the Steelers close the decade with two more Super Bowl wins. Harris, the Steelers' franchise career rushing leader, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. Bleier, a United States Army veteran and a Purple Heart recipient, was inducted into the Steelers' Hall of Honor in 2018.
1985: Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner
A 5-11 team in 1984, the Browns won the AFC Central with an 8-8 record in 1985, Marty Schottenheimer's first season in Cleveland. Led by its two 1,000-yard running backs, Cleveland won three of its final five games to clinch a playoff berth. Facing the defending AFC champion Dolphins in the first round, the Browns jumped out to a 21-3 lead after two touchdown runs by Byner and a touchdown catch by Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome. Cleveland could not maintain their lead, however, as the Dan Marino-led Dolphins scored the game's final 21 points to prevail, 24-21.
The duo would help the Browns advance to three AFC title games in a four-year span from 1986-89. But each time, Cleveland fell to John Elway and the Broncos, with Byner's last-minute fumble in the 1987 AFC title game sealing the Browns' 38-33 loss. A two-time Pro Bowler, Byner won a Super Bowl ring with Washington in 1991 before returning to the Browns in 1994. He followed the franchise to Baltimore in 1996, retiring after the 1997 season. Respectively, Mack and Byner are fifth and seventh on the Browns' career rushing list.
2006: Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick
Dunn, the 23rd leading rusher in NFL history, rushed for over 1,000 yards for the fifth and final time in 2006. That season, Vick became the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards, as his 1,039 yards that season stood as the NFL record for 13 years. Four years earlier, the duo made history by helping the Falcons hand the Packers their first-ever playoff loss at Lambeau Field.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Dunn retired after the 2008 season with 10,967 rushing yards, 4,339 receiving yards and 64 total touchdowns. Vick, who was also selected to four Pro Bowls during his 13-year career, won Comeback Player of Year in 2010 after guiding the Eagles to a division title. Vick's 6,109 career rushing yards is the most by a quarterback.
2008: Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward
A year after helping lead the Giants to a Super Bowl victory, Jacobs and Ward rushed for a combined 2,114 yards while helping New York win 13 games during the '08 regular season. While Ward signed with the Buccaneers during the following offseason, Jacobs teamed up with another Giants running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, to help the Giants win another Super Bowl at the end of the 2011 season. Jacobs retired after the 2013 season as the fourth leading rusher in franchise history.
📽️ Nov 16, 2008 - The Giants physically dominated the Ravens in a 30-10 win at Giants Stadium to improve to 9-1.#NYG rushed for 207 yds with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward & Ahmad Bradshaw all finding daylight behind NY's dominant offensive line. #TBT #NYGiantsFilms #GiantsPride pic.twitter.com/qiUttfHFW0— NY Giants Films (@NYGiantsFilms) July 16, 2020
2009: Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams
In 2008, their first season together, the duo of Stewart and Williams rushed for a combined 2,351 yards, with Williams rushing for a career-high 1,515 yards and a league-high 18 touchdowns. The teammates posted nearly identical numbers the following season, with Stewart rushing for 1,113 yards and 10 touchdowns and Williams earning Pro Bowl honors after gaining 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns.
The duo stayed together through the 2014 season before Williams signed with the Steelers as a free agent. In 2015, Williams tied for the league high with 11 rushing touchdowns while helping Pittsburgh make the playoffs. Stewart earned his first Pro Bowl selection that season while helping lead the Panthers to a 15-1 regular season record and an appearance in Super Bowl 50. In 2017, Stewart passed Williams for first on the Panthers' career rushing list. Williams joined Tony Dorsett and Ricky Williams as the only players in history to rush for over 6,000 yards in both college and the NFL.
2019: Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram
In his first full season as the Ravens' starting quarterback, Jackson broke Vick's record after rushing for 1,206 yards in 15 games. The league's MVP that season, Jackson finished fifth in the league in rushing, ahead of Pro Bowlers Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara. Speaking of Pro Bowls, Mark Ingram, Jackson's teammate in Baltimore, earned his third Pro Bowl selection after rushing for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He also caught five touchdowns while helping the Ravens win 14 regular season games. The duo helped Baltimore rush for an NFL-record 3,296 yards.