According to Pro Football Reference, there have been 31 receptions in NFL history that have accounted for 97 or more yards. There have also been six rushes that have gone a distance of at least 97 yards, giving the total number of plays from scrimmage that have spanned that distance as 37.
Two of those plays just happened over the course of the past couple of days. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 97-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. A day later, Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller broke off a 97-yard run in their victory.
Heading into the week, there was exactly one player in NFL history to have recorded more than one play of 97 or more yards in his career. That was the legendary Gaynell Tinsley, who recorded a 97-yard reception for the Chicago Cardinals as a rookie in 1937 and then added a 98-yard reception in 1938.
And then there were three. Because in both Smith-Schuster’s and Miller’s case, this too was the second time that they had accomplished their exact feats. Smith-Schuster had a 97-yard reception as a rookie last year, and Miller had a 97-yard run back in 2014.
Tinsley, by the way, played only one more season, in 1940, signing a minor league baseball contract instead in 1939, in spite of the fact that he was setting what were records at the time in the National Football league with 674 receiving yards in 1937 and 41 receptions in 1938.
He served as a high school head coach in 1939 as well, but returned in 1940, only to suffer a torn knee that effectively ended his career. He had the fourth-most receptions in NFL history when he retired despite only playing for three years. Just a name to know for you sports history enthusiasts.
Over the course of his first 25 games, Smith-Schuster has recorded 25 passes for 20 or more yards, otherwise known as explosive plays. He has gained 1017 of his receiving yards and five touchdowns on those plays, 21 of which have come from Ben Roethlisberger. Another three have come from Landry Jones, and Joshua Dobbs has yet one more.
Among those 25 receptions are 10 that have gained at least 40 yards, and five of those have picked up at least 60. He has three receptions in his career that have spanned at least 75 yards. In other to fully demonstrate just how impressive this is, one ought to compare it to Antonio Brown.
The perennial All-Pro counterpart has caught 35 passes of 40 yards or more over the course of his nine seasons to date, and that does include five in 2018 alone. He also had six last season, and a stunning eight in 2014. Yet among them, only four have gained at least 60 yards, just two of 70 more and none of 80 or more.