An old(er) back learns some new tricks

Ahmad Bradshaw’s days as a 1,000-yard rusher are probably behind him. He’s what you might call a complementary back now, rotating with Trent Richardson and giving the Colts, at the age of 28, A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That. It’s the Little Bit of That we’ll be discussing today.

Suddenly, Bradshaw, never much of a receiving threat before, has started catching touchdown passes. He had three TD receptions in his first seven NFL seasons; he has five in the first six games of 2014. That’s as many as any running back has had through six games since 1960. In fact, it’s been 31 years since a back got off to this good a start (Joe Cribbs, Bills). Two of the other backs since ’60 with five TD catches in the first six games: Hall of Famers Gale Sayers (1965) and Lenny Moore (1961).

Clearly, Andrew Luck has faith in Bradshaw as a receiver, because he keeps throwing him the ball in the red zone. (The five touchdowns have measured 1, 7, 6, 15 and 5 yards.) And if Luck keeps throwing him the ball in the red zone, Ahmad might well break the modern record for TD catches in a season by a running back — 9, shared by four players.

MOST TOUCHDOWN CATCHES IN A SEASON BY A RUNNING BACK SINCE 1932

Year Running Back,Team Rec Yds Avg TD
1991 Leroy Hoard, Browns 48 567 11.8 9
1975 Chuck Foreman, Vikings 73 691 9.5 9
1964 Bill Brown, Vikings 48 703 14.6 9
1961 Billy Cannon, Oilers (AFL) 43 586 13.6 9
1960 Lenny Moore, Colts 45 936 20.8 9
2000 Marshall Faulk, Rams 81 830 10.2 8
1986 Gary Anderson, Chargers 80 871 10.9 8
1966 Dan Reeves, Cowboys 41 557 13.6 8
1949 Gene Roberts, Giants 35 711 20.3 8

Always fun to see Dan Reeves’ name pop up in a chart, isn’t it? “Choo-Choo” Roberts, by the way, had one of the great forgotten seasons in ’49 for a 6-6 Giants team. He finished fourth in the league in both rushing yards (634) and receiving yards (711, including two 200-yard games) and scored 17 touchdowns, one shy of Steve Van Buren’s mark (since erased).

I said “modern record” earlier because Hall of Famer Johnny Blood caught 10 for the Packers in 1931, the year before they began keeping Official Statistics. Blood was a hybrid back like Lenny Moore — or, more recently, the Seahawks’ Percy Harvin. He’d line up either in the backfield or on the flank (where his speed could be put to optimum use). Just a dangerous, dangerous receiver. Indeed, he had four scoring grabs of 40 yards or longer that year.

Let’s see Ahmad Bradshaw top that.

Postscript: There are a million Blood stories. Some are even true. He was one of pro football’s all-time characters, the kind of guy who didn’t waste a minute of his life. If you want to read more about him, check out this classic piece Gerald Holland wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1963.

Source: pro-football-reference.com