- Bill Barnwell
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Three weeks ago, Ronnie Brown was the Dolphins' backup running back, sitting behind a guy who'd carried the ball six times in the previous two seasons.
Although it's simplistic to say he beat the Patriots by himself in Week 3, Brown was the class of the league. If the post-Tom Brady Patriots don't make it to the playoffs, their epitaph may very well be the miserable excuse for a tackle Brandon Meriweather attempted to put on Brown on the Miami running back's fourth touchdown run of the day. As Brown drilled Meriweather's attempted head butt into the ground, he seemed well on his way to a day that would put him in the annals of single-game YAR (yards above replacement) history.
Instead, for all of Brown's touchdowns, he and his 92 YAR don't even make the list of the top 20 running back games since 1995, the year our advanced stats begin. (You can find the full list here.)
It's surprising, but the reasons why are threefold. First, Brown carried the ball only 17 times for 113 yards. Although he scored on four of those runs, and gets bonuses for all his touchdowns, you can only rack up so much value in 17 carries. Second, though he threw for a touchdown, Brown caught only one pass; most of the top running back games featured at least 200 combined rushing and receiving yards. The best game, by Priest Holmes in Week 12 of 2002, earned 157 DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) with 197 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards, and three combined touchdowns.
Finally, all of the games of the past have been adjusted for opponent, but we haven't done that with Brown's game yet. Later in the year, once we start adjusting for the strength of New England's defense and retroactively apply those adjustments to games from earlier in the year, the context of Brown's performance will come to light and he'll likely receive a boost that could bump him into the top 20.
By then, maybe the Dolphins will even have given him the starting job outright.
Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 3, according to the Football Outsiders YAR statistics.
Football Outsiders reviews the best and worst players of the week according to DYAR and effective yards stats.