While the Dallas Cowboys lost ground in the playoff race after losing to divisional foe New York, Emmitt Smith is 70 yards closer to breaking Payton's rushing record of 16,726 career rushing yards.
In his first game on the new "soft turf" recently installed in Dallas' Texas Stadium, Smith carried the ball thirteen times amassing 70 yards on the ground. Smith's quest towards the rushing record was helped out by a 30-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, reminiscent of his days with the Cowboys during their Super Bowl runs.
Currently, Smith is on pace to break Payton's record November 3rd against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Should Smith be slowed up either by injury or good defensive play from the opposing team, Smith will have to wait even longer to obtain the record, as the Dallas Cowboys have their bye week following the Detroit Lions game.
The former Florida Gator has an outside shot of breaking the record in front of a nationally televised audience. The Cowboys play the Carolina Panthers next week, and if he has a good game of about 100 yards, he would have a legitimate chance at breaking the record on the night of October 20th versus the Arizona Cardinals, on ESPN's Sunday Night Football. While Carolina ranks near the top of the NFL in run defense, the Arizona Cardinals have an average run defense.
Assuming Smith does obtain the record, whether or not he plays anymore seasons in the NFL, seemingly he will hold the record for years to come. The closest active player to Emmitt Smith, is Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis. The veteran, better known as "the bus" for his tough running style is twelfth on the all-time rushing record with 10,876 yards. At thirty years old, it seems unlikely that Bettis will catch Emmitt's record, whatever it may be. Other active running backs on the top 20 career-rushing list include Marshall Faulk 16th with 9,442 rush yards, and Curtis Martin, 18th with 9,267 rush yards.