In the Passing League, some teams are still finding success on the pitch | News, Sports, Jobs


Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) faces the Arizona Cardinals in the second half of an NFL football game on Saturday, December 25, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo / Rick Scuteri)

SANTA CLARA, Calif .– Relying on a big-caliber quarterback to slice up opposing defenses in the passing game remains the best route to offensive success in the modern NFL.

But for teams that don’t have an accomplished passer like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes, staying on the ground can also work.

“If you want to establish any kind of domination, especially in the trenches, I think you have to,” said San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams. “You have to throw the ball. You have to make your opponents respect this.

The 49ers are one of many teams with below-elite quarterbacks that have relied on the race to advance to the playoffs, along with Indianapolis, Philadelphia and New England.

Perhaps no team has transformed as much as the Eagles, who reversed their scenario by running just 39% of the time in the first seven weeks to peak at 61% in the past nine weeks. It coincided with a resurgence that took Philadelphia from 2-5 to 8-7 and playoff contention.

“I think you are always evolving and changing to make sure you do the best things for your players,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “I think we’ve definitely changed who we were and who we are, and to find out what we do best.”

Running behind a powerful offensive line and using quarterback Jalen Hurts in the running game saw the Eagles become the first team since the 1985 Bears to run for at least 175 yards in seven straight games.

The Colts, Titans, 49ers and Eagles all rank in the league’s top-eight by running the first and second downs in the first 28 minutes of the game, when the game situation doesn’t dictate strategy like it might. be the case later and during the third tests. .

“It keeps the defensive line off the beat,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose team began to rely more on running in coach Arthur Smith’s first season.

“When they don’t have the chance to just stick their ears back and know it’s going to be a back pass, it makes it harder for them when they have to defend both. … This league is all about slowing down these guys on the other side of the ball and figuring out ways to do it, and running the football has certainly helped that.

The Niners also turned their season around with a three-game streak when they ran the ball at least 39 times per week. It all started when coach Kyle Shanahan challenged his team to throw the ball 40 times in a Week 10 game against the Rams that the 49ers won 31-10.

San Francisco finished with 44 rushes thanks in part to the turnaround defense, an effective third pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and an 18-game opener that yielded 14 points.

“I don’t mean to say it took their soul away from them, but it definitely did something,” Garoppolo said.

While this open command may have set the tone, maintaining this approach throughout play is only possible when playing with a lead. The pass remains overall more efficient and necessary if the teams are forced to switch to catch-up mode.

While the offense has waned a bit this season, passing the ball on average still generates more yards, with teams averaging 6.26 yards per setback compared to 4.31 yards per carry.

While the pass leads to more explosive games which have a great influence on wins and losses, running the ball brings other elements to the game.

“The data will tell you that you don’t need a running game to play pass. You don’t need that, ”Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “But what the running game does for you, it brings a physical dimension to the game of football. What the running game does that the passing game doesn’t is that running forces the defense to block and tackle.

But the distinction between runs and passes isn’t as clear as it used to be with teams using more RPOs than ever before, when the play call includes both a pass and run option and the quarterback. back determines what to do based on the defense’s reaction to the snap.

The RPO percentage has risen from 6% in 2020 to 9.5% this season, according to Sportradar, with teams transmitting around 45% of those coins.

“Because we have Jonathan Taylor and the offensive line that we have, teams get very creative with running blitzes and in heavy boxes,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “So one of the ways to combat that is to do things at the training level, and another way is RPOs. So we’re going to continue not to specialize in RPOs, but that will be part of what we do.

Taylor leads the NFL with 1,626 rushing yards and the Colts are able to grab a wildcard spot for the AFC.

The running game has been a big part of New England’s resurgence with the Patriots running at a higher pace this season with rookie Mac Jones in quarterback than they have in the past 12. Brady’s seasons as a starter. It helped the Patriots win nine games and tie Buffalo for the AFC East lead despite relying on a rookie quarterback.

New England are in that position largely thanks to a 14-10 victory three weeks ago at Buffalo when the Patriots pitched just three times on a blustery night and ran it 46 times for 222 yards. .

“I don’t think they’ve ever been given enough credit for their looks on both sides of the scrimmage line,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “They’ve always managed to make it work. … Year after year, the teams that can handle the line of scrimmage, whether it’s part of the running game or very physical across the line of scrimmage, are usually the ones that play in January.

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