We’re rolling, three weeks into our sports-history focus with another edition of NFL Thursdays, this time looking at the 1952 NFL MVP candidates. We’ve laid out our process here, so let’s get moving on to the analysis and discussion right away!

1952 NFL MVP: Another record-setting season can’t be overlooked, can it?

The best quarterback this regular season, by far, was Green Bay Packers QB Tobin Rote, who posted a 85.6 rating. That mark was 14.1 points better than any other signal caller in the league. Rote also was one of only three QBs to throw more touchdowns than interceptions during the 1952 campaign.

However, the Packers finished just 6-6, three games behind National Division-leaders Detroit and Los Angeles. It’s hard to assess just how valuable Rote’s effort was on a team that was average, at best, with him.

A strong candidate, again, is Dan Towler, the fullback for the Rams. He led the league in rushing yards (894), and that was the best mark in the league by almost 150 yards. His 10 rushing TDs led the NFL, too, and his 5.7 yards-per-carry average was second best. That is an MVP-caliber season from a key player on a top team, even if he did fumble four times.

Several receivers had good seasons, including Cleveland’s Mac Speedie: He was first in receptions (62) and fifth in yards (911) for the American Division-winning Browns. Meanwhile, Lions receiver Cloyce Box led the league with 15 TD catches, and he was fourth in yards (924). But no receiver really stood out above the rest, uniquely—or in a “value” sense, either.

The dark horse here is Los Angeles Rams defensive back Dick “Night Train” Lane. Yes, we know a lot of QBs tossed a lot of interceptions in the 1950s, but Lane registered 14 picks in 1952—a record that still stands today, and it may never be broken, due to changes in the NFL rules for passing.

Unlike earlier seasons in our analysis, too, Lane’s league-leading 14 INTs were four better than the next-best player’s total, and he also returned his picks for 298 yards and two TDs. Only one other player in 1952 had at least 200 return yards on picks, and Lane was the only one to score twice on his thefts.

All this adds up to our first defensive MVP, against all odds, really: Night Train Lane. The Rams never would have tied the Lions for the division lead without this stellar effort from their star defensive back. That is value.

Check in every Thursday for our NFL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!