When one thinks of a broken tackle, we often think of the “truck” stick on a video game, where the press of a button equates to a defender being steamrolled by the ball carrier, and that’s often the case. Beside the definition of a broken tackle in the encyclopedia should be the video highlights of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and his “Beast Quake” 67-yard touchdown romp in the 2010 NFC Wild Card game versus New Orleans. On that play alone, Lynch recorded 8 broken tackles, none highlighted more than the left hook-style stiff arm he popped on Saints’ cornerback Tracy Porter.
In the 2014 season, it was no surprise when the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lynch was anointed #1 on the broken tackles list, as he’s known league-wide for his vicious, rugged running style. Hell, the man’s nickname is Beast Mode for a reason. However, Pittsburgh has a beast of their own residing in the backfield in the form of All-Pro Le’Veon Bell, who would seem to have the upperhand in any argument as his claim as the best all-around runner in the entire league.
According to Football Outsiders, a football statistics and analysis website, Bell was credited with the second-most broken tackles in 2014, behind only Lynch. A big back in his own right, the slimmed-down 6-foot-1, 225-or-so pounder (he’s listed at 244) was cited with 59 broken tackles last season for the AFC North Division champs. Registering 290 carries and another 83 receptions for 373 total touches, Bell recorded a broken tackle/touch percentage of 15.8, significantly lower than Lynch’s 27.8. However, Bell is more deceptive as well, using his slippery moves to spin off tacklers instead of Lynch just jackhammering into them, which could equate to a more prolonged career for Bell.
Interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority of the names on the list are that of bigger backs, with the smallest being Baltimore’s Justin Forsett and the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles, who go 197 and 199 pounds, respectively. This doesn’t necessarily preclude smaller backs from making the list, because we’ve all seen Charles make plenty of defenders look silly. It just sort of makes you think of highlights of the top 10 power backs on NFL Network, when you’re watching players like Larry Csonka or Earl Campbell just hammering people.
“Historically, we have defined a “broken tackle” as one of two events: either the ball carrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ball carrier jukes him out of his shoes,” said Vincent Verhai of Football Outsiders. “If the ball carrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that didn’t count as a broken tackle. It also doesn’t count as a broken tackle if a defender gets a hand on the ball carrier but is effectively being blocked out of the play by another offensive player.”
The site also found two more Steelers on their broken tackles list for their respective positions, with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Antonio Brown at wide receiver. While fans of the team don’t want to hear or think about the franchise quarterback in a position to break tackles, Big Ben actually ranked 8th on the top-10 list. He was credited with 8 broken tackles, as well as 8 “Houdinis” or , according to the site, a term coined when quarterbacks escape sacks. To no one’s surprise, the top Houdini numbers belonged to scramblers like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.
Amongst the wide receivers and tight ends, the man child Rob Gronkowski led the way with 24 broken tackles, and Brown actually came in 5th, with 18. This number isn’t as surprising as one would think, as Brown does most of his damage after the catch. Barring any major injuries to any one of the team’s triplets, these numbers should only increase in 2015, perhaps except for Bell due to his early season suspension.