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On This Date in Sports December 16, 1973: O.J. 2,000

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

O.J. Simpson becomes the first running back to rush for 2,000 yards in an NFL season, collecting 200 yards in the final game of the season against the New York Jets. Looking to make history, Simpson carries the ball 34 times in the snow at Shea Stadium, scoring one touchdown as the Bills beat the Jets 34-14. O.J. Simpson finishes with 2,003 yards in a 14-game season.

Orenthal James Simpson was born July 9, 1947, in San Francisco. After staring at high school and junior college, O.J. Simpson was recruited to play at USC by John McKay. In two seasons with the Trojans, the Juice led the nation in rushing winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968. After a great college career, O.J. Simpson was the first player chosen in the 1969 draft by the Buffalo Bills.

In his first three seasons in Buffalo, O.J. Simpson had trouble living up to expectations, but with the arrival of Lou Saban as head coach in 1972, Simpson began to show his greatness as he benefited from Saban’s offensive game plan focused on a heavy rushing attack by building a strong offensive line. O.J. Simpson would begin a string of four rushing titles in five years, with 1,251 yards in 1972.

O.J. Simpson began the 1973 season with a bang, rushing for 250 yards on 29 carries with two scores as the Bills beat the New England Patriots 31-13 in Foxboro. Simpson rushed for at least 100 yards in his first five games, including 123 yards in a 9-7 win over the New York Jets in their first ever game at Rich Stadium. O.J., streak came to an end in Week 6, as he was held to 55 yards in a 27-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Orange Bowl. He rebounded the following week with 157 yards on 39 carries as the Bills slipped past the Kansas City Chiefs 23-14. In his second game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, O.J. Simpson had a much better game with 120 yards, despite the Bills get shutout at home 17-0 as he had at least 120 yards in his final five game of the season. This included 219 yards against the Patriots in their final home game of the season to put him within range of making history.

Entering the final game of the season at Shea Stadium, O.J. Simpson needed 60 yards to top Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown’s 1963 single-season record of 1,863 yards. Despite a snow-covered field, Simpson reached the record with ease, as the Jets closing out a 4-10 season, were a team in transition with Weeb Ewbank coaching the final game of his Hall of Fame career. O.J. carried the ball 34 times, rushing for 200 yards, the final six of which put him over the 2,000-yard mark. Simpson also scored his league-leading 16th touchdown to earn MVP honors as Buffalo finished with a record of 9-5 beating the Jets 34-14, despite two touchdowns from Joe Namath.

There have been six additional players to post 2,000-yard seasons in the NFL on the ground. Only O.J. Simpson did in a 14-game season, as Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams topped his record with 2,105 yards rushing in 1984. The other five members of the 2,000-yard club are Barry Sanders with the Detroit Lions in 1997 with 2,053 yards, and Terrell Davis with the Denver Broncos had 2,008 yards in 1998 Jamal Lewis ran for 2,066 yards with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. Chris Johnson became 2J2K with the Tennessee Titans in 2009 with 2,006 yards, while Adrian Peterson did with 2,097 yards with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012.