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
|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.