Beating the Box Score: Running Backs Who Won Games with Their Blocking
"Beating the Box Score" is a series that illustrates how big plays happen and gives credit to the guys making it happen, even if it's away from the ball and not shown in a box score.
In today's fantasy football-loving world, we tend to judge a player's performance strictly on their numbers. They're quick, easy and objective. Whether it's receiving yards from a wide receiver or tackles from a linebacker, it's easy to take these numbers and compare players across divisions, leagues and even years. But player's don't play the game with the grand hopes of posting big fantasy football numbers; no, they're simply playing to win the game.
This leads to a divide in how many fans see a player's performance and what they're actually doing on the field. Many things players do out on the field aren't measured by a simple numerical value. So while a fan may believe a player didn't have a great day because he only picked up four fantasy points for his fantasy owners, that player might be going home with a win and the comfort in knowing he did his job that day.
It's basically discounting what 80 percent of the guys on the field are doing on any given play. If they weren't the one who threw, ran or caught the ball or the one to bring that player down, there's nothing there for them in regards to a box score or fantasy update.
One specific football action that comes to mind is a running back's ability to pick up blitzers in pass protection. Whether or not he does his job in making the block won't be in a box score either way, but it could matter on whether or not they win the football game. And that's what matters to his coaches, teammates and fans who understand these things.
In Week 2 alone there were three different backs that really stood out and helped their team win a game because of their ability to block. They were Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson, Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers and Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.
This first play from Jackson came on the game-winning touchdown pass from Bills quarterback EJ Manuel to wide receiver Steve Johnson. The Bills were trailing by six points with just six seconds remaining.
Jackson is going to be responsible for taking on Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is blitzing the B-gap between the left guard and tackle.
Jackson doesn't get much on Kuechly, as the Panthers linebacker has exceptional closing speed, but he disrupts him just enough to allow Manuel to get the pass off to the wide-open Johnson for the touchdown. If Jackson doesn't dive to make this block and slow Kuechly down just enough, the Bills might not have won that game.
This second play from Rodgers came on a highlight most of us saw several times throughout the week but might not have noticed how the pass, and the pocket around Matt Ryan, came to develop.
Ryan's 81-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones might not have happened had Rodgers not stepped up and took on the linebacker closing in. At just 5'6" and 186 pounds, Rodgers didn't have any issue sticking his nose in there and allowing Ryan a comfortable pocket to deliver the pass.
These last set of plays come from the Chiefs' 17-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Through the first 56 minutes of the game the Chiefs had ran Jamaal Charles just eight times, but with 3:50 left in the game and starting on their own 16-yard line, the Chiefs had to make a concerted effort to run the football.
Charles carried the ball eight times for 47 yards on the final drive, and it was Sherman that was paving the path for him. The Chiefs moved the ball far enough and ate up enough clock that the game was essentially over. They were able to successfully run the football when the defense knew it was coming.
Whether it's taking on a linebacker in pass protection or blowing him out in the running game, backs won't see much credit on these plays once the game is over. It's an unglorified task for a glorified position, and it's absolutely necessary in order to win football games. These three games were all separated by a total of nine points, every play mattered.
And while numerical values aren't currently assigned in any box score you'll find for any of the plays described above, each of these players went home with a victory after doing their jobs at crucial times in the game. That's the most important thing, they beat the box score and deserve credit for helping pick up the win for their teams.
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