So the 2009-10 NFL season was supposed to all about high flying offense. The passing game in the NFL dominated the regular season and most thought that the passing game would define this post season.
So far that has not been the case for this post season and for most post seasons. While it was not quite turning back the clock to three yards and a cloud of dust old school rules have been in effect for these playoffs.
Sure there will be two great quarterbacks in Super Bowl XLIV, but the road they took to Miami was not all on their arms alone. Both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning made plays to win the NFC and AFC Championship respectively but that was not the whole formula for winning this post season.
There have been three stats that just about every winner of each playoff game has had in common. Before Super Bowl XLIV here are the three stats to look out for if your favorite team wants to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Miami.
Passing is nice but running the ball has won games in the 2009-10 NFL playoffs
There have been 10 playoff games so far this postseason in the NFL. Of those 10 playoff games the team that has rushed for the most yards has gone 7-2-1.
The four winners of the Wild Card games rushed for average of 190 yards as a team. The four losers rushed for 95 yards and two of the four rushed for less than 75 yards as a team.
In the divisional round three of the four teams that advanced all out rushed their opponents. The lone exception was the Indianapolis Colts when they beat the Baltimore Ravens.
Divisional round winners rushed for an average of 123 yards as a team. While the losers of the divisional round rushed for an average of 85 yards as a team.
In the AFC Championship game the Colts were able to shut down the number one rushing team in the NFL. The Jets were only able to rush for 86 yards as a team and came into this game averaging 170 yards rushing.
The NFC Championship game was quite different with the Saints winning the game while only rushing for 68 yards as a team. The Vikings rushed for 168 yards and found away to lose the game.
Overall in these playoffs it seems that if a team can run the ball they have a very good chance of winning. The two teams that lost the rushing battle but won the game were able to win the other two stats we are about to talk about soundly.
Teams must be sound in the kicking game to win this postseason
Every team that won a playoff game in this postseason was sound in the kicking game. Teams that made their kicks and had good returns were 9-0-1 in the playoffs.
In the Wild Card round only the Green Bay and Arizona game saw two kickers miss a field goal. It was the only game in which the winning team missed the same amount of field goals as the losing team.
In the Dallas and Philadelphia game the Cowboys' Shaun Suisham made both his field goal attempts. To be fair, the Eagles' David Akers never had a chance to kick.
On the AFC side of the bracket field goal kicking was a big part of the story. Both teams that lost in the AFC Wild Card missed field goals.
Cincinnati’s kicker Shayne Graham missed both of his field goal attempts. Graham missed a 35 yard field goal and a 28 yard field goal. The attempts both came at home so there should have been no problems with the field goal kicking. The Jets, Jay Feely made the only field goal New York attempted in what ended up being a 10 point win.
In the other AFC Wild Card game the Patriots Stephen Gostkowski missed one field goal of 44 yards. The Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, on the other hand made both of his field goal attempts with one being from 27 yards and one from 23 yards.
The divisional round saw more missed field goals that helped affect the outcome of games. The Jets were once again the biggest beneficiary of the missed kicks.
Against the San Diego Chargers the Jets, Feely once again made the only field goal New York attempted a 46 yarder. The Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missed the three field goal attempts tried by the Chargers.
Kaeding missed a 36 yard field goal, a 50 yard field goal and a 40 yard field goal. In what turned out to be a three point win for the Jets, Feely’s field goal proved to be the difference. But if Kaeding had made even one field goal this game would have went into overtime and two would have meant a Chargers win.
In the over AFC Divisional game both the Colts and the Ravens made all their field goals. The Colts Matt Stover was two for two and the Ravens Cundiff was one for one.
On the NFC side of the bracket the Cowboys saw their chance to get an early lead on the road against the Vikings end up with a Suisham miss.
Suisham ended up making one field goal but missing two. His counterpart for the Vikings Ryan Longwell was a perfect two for two.
The Cardinals Neil Rackers missed the only field goal he attempted in the game against the Saints. The 50 yard field goal Rackers missed might have given the Cardinals some momentum in a 35-14 game heading into the half.
New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley would make both kicks he attempted in this game. Hartley would make both kicks from over 40 yards.
In the AFC Championship game the Jets who seemed to have voodoo over opposing kickers found the voodoo on them. Feely so reliable this postseason went one in three in this game.
The Colts Stover was three for three. In a game that ended up being a 13 point win for the Colts the two misses could changed the momentum of this game.
The New Orleans Saints were the only team to attempt a field goal in the NFC Championship game. Hartley made the most of his one attempt by kicking the game winner in overtime that ended up being a 40 yard field goal.
Several of these missed field goals changed the momentum of games. When you add in the scores of some games if teams had been better in kicking game they might be heading to Miami and not the Saints and Colts.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
The last stat is the most telling one. There were teams that did not win the rushing battle but won their playoff game.
There were teams that were not perfect in the kicking game but found away to move on. There was one stat that no team was able to overcome and that stat is turnovers.
The team who was able force the most turnovers was 9-0-1 in these playoffs. In every game the team who could not hold on to the ball or threw interceptions got bounced from the playoffs.
In the wild card round the Cardinals forced the Packers into three turnovers while only committing one. The Ravens forced four turnovers compared to the Patriots two. Dallas forced Philadelphia into four turnovers and only committed one.
Before they played the Colts, the Jets forced four turnovers and committed none as they won two road playoff games. Against the Indianapolis the Jets tied the Colts in turnovers with both teams having one each.
But the Jets lost the field goal kicking battle and the rushing battle. The Colts were able to use a better kicking game and rushing attack to bounce New York.
The Colts overall in these playoffs have forced five turnovers and have only committed two. Against Baltimore the Colts forced four turnovers and only had one.
Before their debacle against the Saints the Vikings forced the Cowboys into three turnovers and committed none. The Saints forced the Cardinals into two turnovers and had none.
In the NFC Championship game, New Orleans forced five turnovers and only committed one. In a game that Minnesota dominated statically the Saints were able to win on good field goal kicking and mistakes by the Vikings.
As everyone watches the Super Bowl in two weeks remember to keep a watch on the three stats we gave you. While a team does not need to win all three stats they do need to win at least two of the three.
The main stat to watch is turnovers. There has not been a team in these playoffs to comeback from turnovers.
Next you need to watch which team is not sound overall in the kicking game. Field goal kicking could decide this game.
Last, everyone needs to keep eye on the rushing game. Even last year the Cardinals run to the Super Bowl was fueled by their running game.
One last note in the playoffs the only colts to turn the ball over is Peyton Manning with one interception and Joseph Addai with a fumble. The Saints have only one turnover and it was committed by Reggie Bush and Drew Brees has not committed a turnover in two games.