After New York Giants running back Tiki Barber gained 203 yards rushing on Saturday night against the Oakland Raiders, he assumed - for at least one day - the NFL's rushing title. Barber now has 1,860 yards on 357 carries and 9 rushing TDs through sixteen games.
Barber's primary adversary in this process, Seattle's Shaun Alexander, is 53 yards behind for the NFL's rushing lead with 1,807 on 350 carries through fifteen contests. Alexander is also chasing history – having already scored 27 touchdowns in 2005, he'll pass Kansas City's Priest Holmes for the all-time single-season record with one more score.
Should Alexander wish to be considered for the NFL MVP award (as he has been for most of the season) he has some catching up to do – even if he takes the rushing title back, Barber has Alexander beaten in receiving yards, 530 to 78. Barber finished the season with an NFL-best 2,390 yards from scrimmage, which Alexander would have to gain 505 yards in the season finale to tie.
As the English would say, not bloody likely.
It’s worth mentioning that Barber and his Giants were playing for something in their final contest - their 30-21 victory over Oakland gave them the 2005 NFC East Championship, and the right to host a playoff game next week. New York finished the regular season with an 11-5 record.
Seattle clinched the NFC's best record, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, with their 28-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. Seattle would finish the season with a 14-2 record if they can beat the Green Bay Packers on New Year's Day. Win or lose, they have clinched the best record in franchise history, at least one win better than 1984's 12-4 mark.
So, Seattle will be playing for sustained momentum (little worry there - the Seahawks are riding a franchise record 11-game winning streak), and two landmarks for their All-Pro running back. Although Mike Holmgren will likely pull his starters early on against Green Bay, it's difficult to imagine Alexander not staying in the game long enough to get the rushing title and the touchdown record - especially after he fell one yard short of the rushing lead last season.
Alexander is also an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the Seahawks will want to insure that no bitterness hinders potential negotiations. There was, of course, the rather overdone matter of Alexander's "stabbed in the back” comments when he didn't get one extra carry in 2004's regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons. Curtis Martin of the New York Jets took the rushing title with 1,697 yards to Alexander’s 1,696.
2005 has been marked by a new feeling of teamwork and unselfishness for the Seahawks, but this would be one instance when letting their star get his numbers (and letting the running back from New York finish second) would be an exceedingly good idea.
Alexander was scheduled to leave the team on Thursday to attend his aunt’s funeral and rejoin the team in Green Bay on Saturday.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.