NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs 2013: Passing Games Should Dominate the Playoffs

The passing game has keyed Atlanta's success this year.
The passing game has keyed Atlanta's success this year.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Chris StephensCorrespondent IIJanuary 1, 2013

For all the talk of Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and Ray Rice, it's the passing game that will dominate the NFL playoffs in 2013.

Ron Jaworski has said multiple times on ESPN programming that teams that run the football and play defense will win championships.

While the second part of that is true, the first part is not true of the game anymore.

Five years ago, when running backs were still king, it may have been true, but the NFL is now a pass-happy league. Throwing the ball down the field and tearing up an opposing secondary will be the key to advancing to the Super Bowl.

 

Looking at 2012 Playoffs

In the playoffs over the last few years, the teams that won games were the ones that threw the ball often.

In 2012, only the Houston Texans (versus Cincinnati in the wild-card round) had a 100-yard rusher and won the game.

In that same round, the New Orleans Saints got 466 yards in a win over the Detroit Lions, while Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards, and Eli Manning threw for 277 yards in wins.

In the next round, Alex Smith threw for 299 yards, Tom Brady threw for 363 and Manning threw for 330. The only exception was Joe Flacco against the Texans, as defense reigned supreme in that game.

The conference championship games saw defenses again dominate. The running games also failed, averaging 106 yards in the AFC Championship Game and 117.5 yards in the NFC Championship Game.

Then in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots and New York Giants averaged 98.5 yards rushing. And if you saw Manning's pass to Mario Manningham, you know what the best play of the game was.

 

This Year

Of this year's playoff teams, only the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers are known for their run games.

Only the 49ers are thought of to be favorites to make it to the Super Bowl.

The Atlanta Falcons used to be known as a run-first team, and they had success with it in the regular season. However, it got them nowhere in the playoffs. Now, they're a pass-happy team.

That's the reason the Falcons traded up to get Julio Jones in 2011 and why Peyton Manning was signed by the Denver Broncos this past offseason.

Just about every team knows it has to pass the ball successfully to win the game. Some teams (Vikings) don't have that luxury and must depend on the running game. However, it's not going to get them anywhere.

 

Conclusion

I'm not lobbying for teams to abandon the run, because that would be stupid. You have to run the ball a little bit to keep defenses honest.

However, if a team is going to have success in the postseason, it must be able to throw the ball down the field. If the running game is its main weapon, it may work in one game, but it's not going to continue to do so.

Being able to pass the ball allows teams to come back more quickly if they are down. When you're a running team, it's much harder.

Passing is the way of the NFL now. Any team that doesn't see that will only fail to reach the goal of winning a Super Bowl.

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