New York Marshall Faulk's record-setting ride for the St. Louis Rams earned him the NFL's Most Valuable Player award in balloting conducted by the Associated Press and announced Wednesday.
Faulk, whose 26 touchdowns beat Emmitt Smith's league mark by one, carried the defending-champion Rams into the playoffs with his late-season heroics. He scored 11 of those touchdowns in the last three weeks and had three four-TD games.
The swift running back also had 220 yards rushing in last Sunday's victory at New Orleans that helped St. Louis squeeze into the postseason.
"This season was pretty high up there, a very special one just because of all the things we faced," said Faulk, who finished with 1,359 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing, plus 81 receptions for 830 yards and eight TDs.
Faulk said it was especially gratifying to break a record set by "a warrior" like Smith, and that the mark also showed what the Rams were capable of as a team.
"But the thing that overshadows it for me and doesn't allow me to harp on it is we were fighting for our lives to try to get into the playoffs," Faulk said.
The Rams got in thanks mostly to Faulk, and play at New Orleans again on Saturday.
Faulk, 27 and in his seventh NFL season, received 24 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters. He beat Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb (11), Tennessee running back Eddie George (8), Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon (5), Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning (1) and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis (1).
"No question he's deserving of the MVP," said Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who won the honor last year. "Look at what he did in 14 games. I don't think there's any question about what he's meant to the team."
Without Faulk he missed two games and was hobbled in two others with a knee injury that required midseason arthroscopic surgery St. Louis has a good offense, but virtually no running game. With him, the Rams can be devastating with the ball.
But Faulk not only is a great runner, he's as good a pass-catcher as most starting wide receivers.
"I don't think there is a prototype," he said. "To play the position and be effective and help the team in the passing game catching the ball, blocking and picking up blitzes, understanding protections you eliminate the need for another person on the roster. They can add someone else at another position to the roster. It's sort of like having one guy who could do two jobs."
Faulk, the 1999 Offensive Player of the Year, is the second successive Ram to win it and the third overall Roman Gabriel was the 1969 MVP.