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Run that Football

   by Bryan Leonard - 10/18/2005

Last week I wrote about the Denver Broncos unique zone blocking schemes. Let’s take that a step further and look at how important rushing is in the NFL. In 2004, passing the football got all of the attention, with QBs like Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning having extraordinary seasons. However, for the most part, you win with defense, rushing the football and passing, in that order.

Here’s a look at top teams rushing the football this season:

YPC Rushing pg

Atlanta 5.5 185.3

Seattle 5.4 166.0

Denver 4.9 153.3

San Diego 4.8 148.2

Tampa Bay 4.3 138.0

What stands out is that they all have winning records (except the 3-3 Chargers). Furthermore, one of the teams, Tampa Bay, has been a big surprise this season with its 5-1 record. The Bucs have concerns with the injury to QB Brian Griese, but it is less likely to be devastating because the 2005 Bucs win with defense and running the football first.

The Eagles, oddly, are last in the NFL in rushing, with a one-man show passing attack. They are walking a thin line relying so heavily on the pass, because QB McNabb has a serious hernia ailment that has him in pain. One wrong hit from an onrushing lineman, and the Eagles might have serious problems. However, look at the other poorest running teams in the NFL: 49ers, Vikings, Packers, Cardinals, Browns and Raiders. All have dismal records and are not considered playoff timber. It’s odd because many feel that you have to build a championship team around a quarterback, and historically, there is merit to this. But running the football effectively is a huge weapon. Even the 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl with a terrific running attack, a brilliant defense, and no quarterback (journeyman Trent Dilfer).

Here are the top rushing teams from 2004: Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Jets, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers and Patriots. From that group, only the Chiefs failed to make the playoffs and one of them (New England) won the title. Passing the football may be exciting to most fans, but defense and the ground game are the real key weapons.

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