Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez dissect and predict Week 4’s Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys game. Recorded Sept. 27, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions snapped a 70-game streak without a 100-yard rusher last Sunday against the New England Patriots, thanks to rookie running back Kerryon Johnson’s 101 yards on 16 carries. Free Press sports writer Ryan Ford takes a look at the Lions’ history with rookie running backs:

Patriot Games

Johnson is just the sixth rookie running back to rush for 100 yards against the Patriots since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000. The list:

Oct. 27, 2002: Clinton Portis, Denver (111 yards)

Dec. 24, 2006: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (131 yards)

Jan. 3, 2010: Arian Foster, Houston (119 yards)

Dec. 11, 2011: Roy Helu, Washington (126 yards)

Sept. 7, 2017: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City (148 yards)

Sept. 23, 2018: Kerryon Johnson, Detroit (101 yards)

More: Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys: Scouting report and prediction

Age is just a number

Johnson hit the 100-yard mark at the age of 21 years, 85 days; he was the 25th-youngest player to hit the mark since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. (Barry Sanders was 16th, doing it at 21 years, 70 days.) The five youngest in that span in years and days:

Rashaan Salaam: 21 years-zero days

Rashaan Salaam: 21-14

Darren McFadden: 21-18

Clinton Portis: 21-21

Jamal Lewis: 21-26

The Lions A.B. (After Barry)

This is the Lions’ 20th season since Barry Sanders retired (just before training camp in 1999). In that span, they’ve had an individual rush for 100 yards just 29 times (in 29 different games). Just 11 backs have combined for those 29 100-yard games. The list:

Kevin Jones: 7 (2004-07)

James Stewart: 7 (2000-02)

Kevin Smith: 4 (2008-11)

Reggie Bush: 3 (2013)

Maurice Morris: 2 (2009-10)

Jahvid Best: 1 (2011)

Shawn Bryson: 1 (2003)

T.J. Duckett: 1 (2007)

Greg Hill: 1 (1999)

Mikel Leshoure: 1 (2012)

Kerryon Johnson: 1 (2018)

Getting off to a fast start

Johnson is the Lions’ leading rusher with 160 yards through three games. He’s on pace to rush for 859 yards this season, which would give him the sixth most rushing yards by a Lions rookie in franchise history. The top five:

1989: Barry Sanders — 1,470

1980: Billy Sims — 1,303

2004: Kevin Jones — 1,133

2008: Kevin Smith — 976

1967: Mel Farr — 860

Better than Barry (not really)?

While Johnson obviously will have to step it up if he wants to challenge Barry Sanders’ rushing record for a rookie RB, he’s already topping Sanders in one stat: Yards per carry. Johnson is averaging 5.55 yards a carry after three games. Just six Lions rookie running backs have averaged more than five yards a carry while rushing at least 25 times in a season:

1981: Vince Thompson — 6.03

1959: Nick Pietrosante — 5.88

1937: Vern Huffman — 5.34

1989: Barry Sanders — 5.25

1958: Dan Lewis — 5.24

1937: Lloyd Cardwell — 5.03

Dual threat

Johnson has 53 yards receiving in his first three games, giving him 213 yards from scrimmage. He’s just the sixth Lions rookie in the post-merger era to have at least 200 yards from scrimmage over the first three games:

1980: Billy Sims — 562

1989: Barry Sanders — 360

2010: Jahvid Best — 307

2004: Roy Williams — 278

1983: James Jones — 230

2018: Kerryon Johnson — 213

Can he do it again?

This is, of course, the big question. Johnson will look for another 100-yard rushing performance Sunday against the Cowboys. Here’s how the past five Lions backs to rush for 100 yards fared in their next game:

Reggie Bush: Bush managed 86 yards against the Ravens 10 days after rushing for 117 against the Packers on Nov. 28, 2013.

Reggie Bush: The Steelers held Bush to just 31 yards one week after Bush picked up 105 against the Bears on Nov. 10, 2013.

Reggie Bush: Bush made it to 44 yards against the Packers one week after picking up 139 on the ground against the Bears on Sept. 29, 2013.

Mikel Leshoure: A week after hitting 100 on the nose against the Titans, Leshoure was held to 26 yards by the Vikings in 2012.

Kevin Smith: Smith pounded his way to 140 yards against the Panthers in 2011, then had just 36 yards against the Packers a week later.