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New England had the most first downs and total yards, but Baltimore won the game.
Once teams reach the postseason, which aspect of the game is most crucial to guaranteeing success in the playoffs? I can just see some smart aleck out there thinking "points on the scoreboard!"
Nice try, but not the answer we are looking for.
I decided to analyze the following factors: rushing the ball, passing the ball, first downs, total yards gained, yards per play, the turnover battle and converting opportunities in the red zone. In a review of these statistical categories, off the top of your head, which one do you think is most vital for a team to win in the playoffs? We will now break down each area for all 11 playoff games.
Running the football - (9/11). In the vast majority of games, the team that ran for the most yards won. The two exceptions were Minnesota at Green Bay and in Super Bowl XLVII.
Passing the football - (6/11). As with rushing the ball, the team that passed for the most yards won the majority of the time. However, there were four games where the losing team passed for more yards. They were Seattle at Atlanta, both conference championships and the Super Bowl. There was one tie, where Baltimore and Indianapolis both passed for 267 yards each.
First Downs - (4/11). In the 11 playoff games, only four times did the winning team have more first downs than the losing team. Those four games were Seattle at Washington, Green Bay vs. Minnesota, Houston vs Cincinnati and San Francisco vs. Green Bay. Moving the chains helps but it is not vital to winning.
Total Yards Gained (7/11). In the majority of playoff games, the teams that gained the most yards won. The exceptions were Seattle at Atlanta, both conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Yards Per Play (7/11). Seven times the team that gained the most yards per play won the game in the postseason. The four exceptions were: Minnesota at Green Bay, Seattle at Atlanta, Baltimore at New England and Super Bowl XLVII.
Turnovers (8/11). Every losing team in the playoffs turned over the football more than the winning team, with three exceptions. Those three exceptions, both teams had the same number of turnovers, which were: Indianapolis at Baltimore, Cincinnati at Houston and Seattle at Atlanta.
Converting Red Zone Opportunities: (7/11). Seven times in the playoffs, the team that scored the most touchdowns in red zone opportunities won the game. The four exceptions were: Seattle at Washington, Baltimore at Denver, Seattle at Atlanta and Super Bowl XLVII. The first three games listed, the losing team scored more red zone touchdowns. In the Super Bowl both teams cashed in two red zone touchdowns. If San Francisco had converted their final try, they would have won the game.
In looking over these findings, all areas have some degree of importance in winning, with the exception of first downs. No single category turns out to be a foolproof method for guaranteeing success, but having a balanced dynamic offense, taking advantage of turnovers and taking care of the ball clearly increases your chances of winning.