They are numbers not mentioned often, but when looked at on their own make for an interesting conversation.
Of the past 10 Super Bowl champions, only half of the team’s offenses ranked in the Top 10 in rushing during the regular season. The 2007 New York Giants had the highest ranking at 4th overall, followed by the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers (5th), the 2000 Baltimore Ravens (5th), the 1999 St. Louis Rams (5th) and the 2004 New England Patriots (7th).
Three teams, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers (23rd overall), the 2003 New England Patriots (27th) and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (27th), ranked in the bottom third in rushing during the regular season, but still managed to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
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So what can be gleaned from this? Well, we know teams that run the ball effectively and play good defense are generally successful in the NFL, but having a dominant running game doesn’t necessarily equate to Super Bowl success. Things like a dominant defense, quality quarterback play, limiting or creating turnovers and solid, special teams play also play a vital role in whether or not a team wins or loses in the postseason.
For Seattle, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has said he wants to create a balanced attack, which includes the ability to run the ball effectively, no matter what the defense or the environment Seattle faces. In order to do that, Knapp implemented the zone blocking scheme in Seattle, which includes a one-cut, downhill running philosophy that should benefit the Seahawks’ stable of running backs in Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett.
In earlier posts we’ve talked about the success Knapp-led offenses have had in the league, finishing in the top 10 in rushing wherever he’s coached. And we’ve speculated on what the final numbers will be for the running back group.
For my money, I believe the top five running backs in the league right now in no particular order are Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew and DeAngelo Williams. Along with being explosive, talented runners, all five of these guys have another thing in common – no Super Bowl ring.
However, guys like Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker, Joseph Addai of the Indianapolis Colts and Michael Pittman while he was with Tampa Bay filled important roles running the ball for their perspective Super Bowl teams, proving you don’t have to be an elite running back to get the job done in the big game.
I believe Seattle has a similar situation with its running back group. Jones has proven if given enough touches he can be an effective runner. Jones is a physical runner with some elusiveness who gets better as the game goes on. He’s also a decent pass catcher out of the backfield and a good pass blocker.
Duckett was effective in short yardage and goal-line situations last season, and should flourish in an expanded role by receiving more touches inside the 20s. And Forsett provides another look for the defense with his darting running style, and also can be effective catching the ball out of the backfield.
Put together, Seattle’s running-back-by-committee may not cause you to forget Earth, Wind and Fire, the N.Y. Giants running back trio from last season, but they should be able to keep opposing defenses honest, and if they play up to their potential will provide enough of a running game to help Seattle get to the postseason.
But once in the playoffs, teams with the best quarterback play generally move on. Just ask the last two Super Bowl winners in the Steelers and the Giants, who both got game-winning drives from their perspective signal callers to take home the trophy.