Ronald Jones ran farther on one play at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday than he had at any other point in his NFL career. He also ran faster than he ever has a pro.
The play in question, of course, was his 98-yard touchdown scamper that gave the Buccaneers a two-score lead over the Carolina Panthers in the third quarter of their eventual 46-23 win. It was just the fourth run of 98 or more yards in NFL history. He wasn't the first Jones in the NFL to break off a very long run this season; fortunately, he was able to stay on his feet all the way to the goal line.
Jones is very fast, but a running back needs some open ground to really turn on the Jets and get up to his maximum possible speed. That's what the third-year back out of USC did when he broke through the line from the two-yard line and saw nothing but green in front of him. Jones, who had not exceeded a top speed of 20 miles per hour on any previous play in his career, accelerated all the way up to 21.19 miles per hour at the peak of his long jaunt.
He needed all of those horses because Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn and cornerback Troy Pride were in pursuit and both are also very swift. In fact, Chinn got up to 22.09 miles per hour at the peak of his chase, which allowed him to slowly close the gap on Jones and gave him one chance for a desperation dive at the back's feet. Pride ran even faster, getting up to 22.40 miles per hour, but never got closer than four yards behind Jones.
The entire run, from the moment Jones got the handoff to the moment he crossed the far goal line, took 12 seconds. As Jones received the ball, Pride was on the line of scrimmage at the right edge being blocked by wide receiver Chris Godwin. At the same time, Chinn was a little closer to where Jones was breaking through, on the line of scrimmage on the left edge, being blocked by tight end Cameron Brate.
Chinn reacted quickly to get into pursuit of Jones, and by the time the Bucs' back was at his own 15 yard line the safety was three yards behind. Chinn had closed that gap to within a yard by the time Jones got to midfield, and he made his unsuccessful dive just as Jones was reaching the opposite 30-yard line. That left Pride as the closest defender but he was still four yards back when Jones scored.
The first teammate to reach Jones after he got to the far end zone was Godwin, which is not terribly surprising. The second one, incredibly, was left guard Ryan Jensen, who had provided one of the key blocks that sprung Jones.
Prior to this play, Jones' top speed on any play this season had been 19.13 miles per hour, which he achieved during a 25-yard run against Green Bay in Week Six. As fast he was going while covering the entire field on Sunday, it's still not the fastest by a Buccaneer this season. Cornerback Ryan Smith still holds that mark with a top speed of 22.07 miles per hour on a punt coverage, and wide receiver Scotty Miller, cornerback Jamel Dean, cornerback Carlton Davis and running back Leonard Fournette have all clocked higher speeds this season, too. But it was fast enough to keep him on his feet for the entire 108.2 yards of ground he covered on the play.