Benson and Stabler. Bert and Ernie. Tom and Jerry.
Over the course of television history, tandems have graced our television screens bringing joy and entertainment. The same can be said on the football field. From Joe Montana and Roger Craig, Jim Kelly, and Thurman Thomas, to Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris, quarterback and running back tandems have spearheaded some of the best teams in the NFL history.
Turning the spotlight on today’s game, there is a number of productive quarterback/running back tandems in the league that can make a claim of being the best of the best after nine weeks of the 2016 season. So which pair stands out above the rest? Here are the five best quarterback/running back tandems in the NFL along with a few honorable mentions who didn’t quite make the countdown.
Tom Brady/LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots: The only reason this pair is in the Honorable Mentions is because of Brady missing the first four games of the season due to suspension. Yet Blount is ninth in the league in yards (609) and first in rushing touchdowns with nine. Meanwhile, Brady has thrown for 1,319 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions in just four games of play. Those first four games without Brady cost this tandem from being arguably the best in the league at the moment.
Carson Palmer/David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Johnson has been one of the best-running backs in the entire league and is currently fourth in rushing yards and tied for third in rushing touchdowns with eight. His talent has slowly transitioned the Cardinals from a running back by committee approach last season to Johnson being the prime back. Palmer has not been his normal self so far this season, but he is still averaging 296.4 yards per game. Cutting down on his turnovers will bump this tandem into the top five.
Top Five QB/RB Tandems:
5. Marcus Mariota – DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans: The Titans are under .500 currently at 4-5, but the play of the second-year quarterback and the veteran running back has sparked the team tremendously. Murray is second in the league in rushing with 807 and seven touchdowns while Mariota has shown that he is taking that next step as a quarterback with 2,187 yards in the air (10th in the league) and his 17 passing touchdowns is only two off his 2015 total of 19. If the Titans are to make a late-season run, which is definitely possible in the mediocre AFC South, it will be because of the one-two punch in the backfield.
4. Tyrod Taylor – LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills: The combination of Taylor and McCoy receive a slight bump over the duo in Tennessee simply because Taylor and McCoy have produced while dealing with a lack of weapons surrounding them. The duo draws just about all of the attention on game days yet the duo is the driving force for the second-best running game in the NFL at the moment at 155 rushing yards per game while the duo also has a combined 10 of the team’s league-leading 16 rushing touchdowns. Both are also averaging at least 5.1 rushing yards per carry. An athletic combination that has made the most out of unfavorable circumstances.
3. Dak Prescott – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: The rookie duo has taken the NFL by storm with their outstanding play in their initial professional seasons. Elliott, behind that excellent Dallas O-Line, leads the league in rushing with 891 yards and is the only running back averaging over 100 rushing yards a game (111.4). The fourth-rounder in Prescott has not been spectacular this season but he has been as steady as any QB in the league. Throwing for 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions and most of importantly, he’s winning. Even without having his ace receiver, Dez Bryant, for a portion of the season.
2. Philip Rivers – Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have won three of the past four and it’s mainly due to the lethal passing of Rivers and the much improved, second-year back in Gordon. Rivers is fourth in the league in passing with 2,560 yards while also tying for fifth in passing touchdowns with 17. What makes it even more interesting is that Rivers has had to deal with season-ending injuries to two key running backs and his top two receivers. Gordon is third in the league in rushing with 768 yards and nine touchdowns after not scoring a touchdown in all of 2015. To boot, Gordon has chipped in with 28 catches and two touchdowns. This electrifying combo has turned heads around the league this season.
1. Matt Ryan – Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons: I know you’re probably thinking that this is not a tandem but more of a triumvirate but with the way Atlanta has used Freeman & Coleman this season, it is essentially a two-headed monster at the running back spot. Ryan leads the league in passing yards (2,980), touchdowns (23) and leading the league in 20-yard passing plays (42) and 40-yard passing plays (13). Meanwhile, the running back combo has produced 1,404 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns under the tenth best rushing offense in the NFL. Week in and week out, the combination of offensive pillars have guided the Falcons along a path of excellent play.