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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.
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December 16, 2007

Running nowhere

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 7:30 PM

The temptation after Seattle plays a game like it did Sunday in Carolina is to proclaim the lack of a running game will be the death knell of this Seahawks' season.

After all, they were absolutely abominable on foot in Carolina. It's now been two months since the Seahawks had a player rush for 100 yards in a game and it would be difficult for Seattle to get much worse in short-yardage situations. Sisyphus had his rock, Seattle has third-and-1.

And this is the time of year when everyone starts talking about how a team must be able to run the ball to win the playoffs when the weather gets cold and defenses turn stout.

But how true is that old adage about the importance of running effectively as it relates to postseason success?

It's a question I wanted to ask in the column I wrote for today's paper, but I quickly realized that I wasn't going to have time to do the necessary research. I did last night before I went to bed, and now while my flight is delayed out of Cleveland, I'll take a stab at beginning to answer that question.

Seattle currently averages 93.4 yards per game, which ranks No. 24 in the league before the Monday night game between Chicago and Minnesota. The Seahawks average 3.6 yards per carry, which is the third-lowest average in the league.

Here's the Super Bowl participants from the past seven seasons with their regular-season rushing averages both by game and per carry, which shows that a dominant running game is not some sort of prerequisite for postseason success:

 
Year
 
Team
Rush yds.
per game
NFL
rank
  Rush yds.
per carry
NFL
rank
2006 Indianapolis 110.1 15   3.8 23
  Chicago 119.9 18   4 16
2005 Pittsburgh 138.9 5   4.1 12
  Seattle 153.6 3   4.7 2
2004 New England 133.4 7   4.1 18
  Philadelphia 102.4 24   4.4 10
2003 New England 100.4 27   3.4 30
  Carolina 130.7 7   4 17
2002 Tampa Bay 97.3 27   3.8 28
  Oakland 110.1 18   4.3 13
2001 New England 112.1 13   3.8 24
  St. Louis 126.7 5   4.9 1
2000 Baltimore 113.1 11   3.8 25
  N.Y. Giants 111.1 15   4.2 11

Now, this is not some sort of backhanded way of saying Seattle will make the Super Bowl. Let me repeat that, using bold-face type to make sure I'm not misunderstood: I'm not saying Seattle will make the Super Bowl.

What I am saying is that the frequently uttered assessment about the importance of running the ball in terms might be overstated as it relates to postseason success.

Of the past 14 Super Bowl participants, five ranked in the top 10 in rushing yardage per game during the regular season, seven ranked in the teens and three were in the bottom third of the league in that category.

A successful running game certainly appears to help a team go on a postseason run, but it doesn't appear to be some sort of prerequisite.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl in a season when they averaged 3.4 yards per carry, third-lowest in the league during the regular season. Tampa Bay won a Super Bowl in a season the Bucs didn't average more than 100 yards rushing per game in the regular season.

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