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Running Game Still Relevant in the Playoffs

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Running Game Still Relevant in the Playoffs
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It is indeed the age of the quarterback.

Ever since the days of Air-Coryell and Marv Levy's K-gun offense, the NFL itself has become the "greatest show on turf," gaining lots of fans and lots of money along the way.

Not even NFL purists and fans of throwback football can deny the entertaining adrenaline rush that is an NFL shootout (especially when Kurt Warner is involved). Bill Walsh's spread offense and its predecessors proved that a pass-happy attack can win Super Bowls along with TV ratings.

So the run game is dead right?

Well even though Bill Simmons thinks it is , his own predictions prove how wrong that is.

Only one team that won on Wild-Card weekend did so without leading the game in rushing yards. That one team was the New York Jets who instead tied the Bengals with 171 yards each.

The two biggest blowouts of the weekend featured rushing disparities of 198-56 yards (Dallas vs. Philadelphia) and 234-64 (Baltimore vs. New England).

Even the Cardinals, who won one of the most exciting passing duels in the history of the NFL, featured a 91-yard rusher in Beanie Wells and ran the ball 41 percent of the time, as opposed to the Packers who ran 32 percent of the time. 

If yardage statistics aren't convincing enough perhaps touchdowns will be.

- Dallas rushed for two more scores than the Eagles.

- New York rushed for one more score than the Bengals.

- Baltimore rushed for four more scores than the Patriots.

- Each of those teams won by more than one touchdown.

The one winning team that didn't rush for more touchdowns than their opponent was Arizona who had to wait until overtime to win their game.

Outside of statistical relationships between running and winning in the playoffs, the idea that a good run game helps a team’s defense remains a consistent theme in the NFL.

Each of the NFL's top five regular season defenses were complimented by a 1,000 yard rusher, and three of the top five (Jets, Bengals, and Ravens) ran better than they passed in both the regular season and the playoffs. 

Obviously having a good offensive line and running back doesn't directly stop an opposing offense, but it does aid in a team's mentality.

As Coach Yoast of Remember the Titans taught his players "Defense is desire. Fire and desire."

It's a lot easier to have that fire when your offense is pounding the other team into submission. If your offense is more physical than the defense than your defense better be more physical than the opponents offense.

All this being said, passing attacks can still get the job done. No one in their right minds will argue against the ability of QB's like Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner to throw their teams to a Lombardi trophy.

For those who aren't led by one of the best passers in NFL history, however, running the rock still matters.

Just ask the Patriots if stopping the run is important. 

Also ask Joe Flacco, who threw for only 34 yards, zero TDs, and one interception and won the game in a landslide, if he likes having a good run game.

Lastly, ask the Eagles, who actually out-passed Tony Romo in a 34-14 loss, if having a few rushing touchdowns would have helped.

One final statistic:

Every Super Bowl winner in the past decade, this pass-heavy, QB-dominated decade, out-rushed their opponent in the Super Bowl.

 

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