Why an Effective Rushing Attack Is Still Important in the NFL

Mihir BhagatSenior Analyst IIIJuly 20, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

For the most part, the NFL has diverted away from the traditional smash-mouth offenses, and instead transitioned into a quarterback-driven league. 

A quarterback is the leader of the entire team and is responsible for making crucial decisions for the offense. Without a franchise quarterback, it's tough to be a competitive unit.

Taking a look at the top 10 passing offenses, eight of those teams were in the playoffs. Nonetheless, the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints were not only fourth in the league in passing, but sixth in rushing as well. 

Having a balanced offense is an integral key to success. In general, it keeps the opposition honest.

A potent ground game can truly compliment your aerial attack, as it draws extra defenders into the box, ultimately opening up opportunities down field. Moreover, when your opponent doesn't know what to expect, it makes stopping you much tougher.

In addition, it takes immense pressure off your quarterback's shoulders. Having to carry the entire group and throw the ball 40 times a game will effect a player, both physically and mentally.

Due to human nature, we all strive for that 'sidekick' who we can rely on to help us along down the stretch. We often realize that doing everything by ourselves isn't realistic nor efficient. The league's leader in passer rating, Drew Brees, had one of the best rushing attacks to help him succeed.

Finally, while this may surprise some, having an effective running game can even help your defense. A team's rushing attack helps convert critical downs and move the chains. As a result, added time is burned off the clock. Ultimately, this forces the opposing defense to remain on the field, while your's rests patiently on the sidelines.

A prime example of this is the New York Jets. Even though they had an inexperienced rookie QB in Mark Sanchez, they were able to make a deep playoff push, all the way to the AFC Championship Game. A primary reason for this was their top ranked rushing offense and No. 1 ranked defense. 

Statistically speaking, the two go hand in hand, as five of the top nine rushing offenses were among the top ten defenses as well. 

Finally, in order to win the ultimate prize—the Lombardi Trophy—a powerful rushing game is typical. In fact, four of the past five Super Bowl winners have ranked in the top six of the league in terms of rushing yards per game. 

As you can see, having an effective rushing attack, and more importantly a balanced offense, is still important.

For every Peyton Manning and Tom Brady out there, the league still has an Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Without them, the game of football that we have come to love and cherish would never be the same.