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On This Date in Sports November 20, 1983: Riggins Runs for Record

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

John Riggins of the Washington Redskins sets an NFL record by scoring a touchdown in his 12th straight game, as the Redskins beat the Los Angeles Rams 42-20 at Anaheim Stadium. Riggins, who won the Super Bowl MVP the previous season, had the best season of his career at the age of 34, with a record 13 straight with a touchdown and 24 rushing touchdowns.

John Riggins was an NFL rebel. A bruising running back, John Riggins was born August 4, 1949, in Seneca, Kansas. After an All-American career at the University of Kansas, Riggins was the sixth overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. In 1975, he became the first player in franchise history to rush for 1000 yards in a season. However, the Jets let him slip away after the season as he signed with the Washington Redskins after the Jets failed to offer a new contract.

The 1976 off-season was the only one that had free agency, as the NFL tightened up its player contracts not to allow players such easy movement in the future. John Riggins became frustrated in Washington at the end of his five-year $1.5 million contract and sat out the entire 1980 season. After returning in 1981, Riggins, at the age of 33, found a second burst of energy in 1982 as he had a magical run in the postseason that culminated in his winning the MVP of Super Bowl XVII as the Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17.

Following his Super Bowl MVP, John Riggins embarked on the most outstanding season of his career at the age of 34, when most running backs are in the twilight of their careers. Carrying over from the 1982 season, Riggins set a new NFL record by scoring a rushing touchdown in 13 straight games, breaking the old record of 11 straight. In the record-breaking game against the Rams, Riggins got the record out of the way early, scoring last in the first quarter as Washington took a 10-6 lead over the Rams. John Riggins would add two more touchdowns to finish the day with 78 yards on 22 carries with three touchdowns as the Redskins improved to 10-2 with a 42-20 win in Anaheim. With the win, the Redskins improved to 10-2. The three touchdowns against the Rams took John Riggins' season total to 19, tying the record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season, which Jim Taylor had set with the Green Bay Packers in 1962. Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers later equaled the 19 rushing touchdowns in 1979 and Chuck Muncie with the San Diego Chargers in 1981.

A week later, John Riggins extended the streak to 13 games as the Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles 28-24. With two scores, Riggins became the first player with 20 rushing touchdowns in a season and tied Brown’s record with 21 overall touchdowns, set in his final season in 1965. Riggins' streak would end in Week 14 when he did not score a touchdown in the Redskins 37-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons. However, in Week, he scored twice in Dallas to establish a new NFL record for touchdowns in a season. John Riggins ended the year with a record 24 touchdowns with a career-best 1,347 rushing yards as the Redskins went 14-2 and reached the Super Bowl for a second straight season. However, Washington fell short of its goal of repeating, losing Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa to the Los Angeles Raiders 38-9.

John Riggins' record of 24 scores stood for 12 years until Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 topped it. The record has since been eclipsed by Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who had 27 touchdowns in 2003. Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks equaled Holmes' mark in 2005. The record was topped again in 2006 when LaDainian Tomlinson reached the end zone 28 times with the San Diego Chargers. That is the current record, which could be in jeopardy with Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams sitting at 17 touchdowns, with a  streak similar to Riggins that ended on Monday Night.