Pounding The Rock: Why NFL Offenses Are Going Back To Basics

Jonathan FrayneContributor INovember 30, 2010

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 14: Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings hands off to Adrian Peterson #28 against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 27-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Week 12 in the NFL highlighted the importance for offenses to possess a dangerous rushing attack.

While the NFL has diverted away from traditional run heavy offenses and evolved into a pass-happy league driven by quarterbacks, it is important to remember the value of the run game.

Take a look at the Vikings-Redskins game on Sunday.

Coming into the game with a 3-7 record, and with Leslie Frazier making his head-coaching debut, the Vikings managed to execute a simple gameplan to win the game.

The gameplan? Run the ball.

With 38 rushes and 23 passes, the Vikings were able to avoid committing a turnover. It may not have been pretty but by running the ball with Adrian Peterson and then Toby Gerhart, the Vikings were able to take the pressure off quarterback Brett Favre.

With Favre having thrown an NFL high 17 interceptions, focusing on setting up manageable third downs enabled him to look after the football.

Another example of what a successful run game can do for a team—the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs lead the NFL in rushing attempts (35.4 attempts per game) and yards (1,917 yards).

The productive run game has been the basis of Kansas City's successful season so far—who would have thought the Chiefs would be sitting atop the AFC West with a 7-4 record at this point in the season?

Pounding the rock with Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles has opened up passing lanes for Matt Cassel to connect with Dwayne Bowe.

Matt Cassel isn't the best quarterback in the league, but he doesn't need to be. He's a solid passer who's having a great season because the focus on the Chiefs run game has allowed him to put up impressive 22 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

Criticized by Chiefs fans, Cassel is now looking a lot more comfortable and his numbers show it.

That's what a dangerous ground game does. It opens up passing lanes. Drawing extra defenders into the box opens up opportunities to take shots downfield and also makes the play action pass more effective.

Fellow AFC West rivals, the Oakland Raiders have also enjoyed some success this year thanks to Darren McFadden and a decent rushing attack.

Another AFC team, the Jaguars sit atop their division after averaging 31.4 rushing attempts per game.

There's only so many elite quarterbacks in the league who can deal with the pressure of throwing the ball 40 times a game.

Why place unnecessary pressure on quarterbacks when you can run the ball effectively?

The New York Jets are a prime example of a team that does a good job of taking the pressure off their quarterback's shoulders.

With a heavy focus on the run game, they simplify things for Mark Sanchez, who is still young and learning. The Jets' run game along with their formidable defense took them deep into the playoffs last year and they look to be heading in the same direction this year.

A solid ground game and a stout defense go hand in hand. By controlling the clock and keeping the opposing offenses off the field, the defense benefits from a long rest on the sidelines.

More teams now seem to be following the example of typical run-heavy teams like the Steelers and Ravens. Their ground games have been bringing them success for the past few years. This year is no different.

As well as the teams already mentioned, the Falcons are a legitimate 9-2 because of their ability to run the ball. Their win against the Packers was simple yet effective.

Lining up with two backs and two tight ends, they were able to win by running downhill power schemes. Nothing fancy, but the Packers couldn't stop it.

With the effectiveness of the run game, it's a wonder why the NFL has evolved into a passing league.

With the success that committing to the run has brought many teams this year, expect to see a lot more old-fashioned, power football.