Tavern talk: Big plays are key to winning

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The other day on NFL Network, I made a comment about how the Saints win games violating almost every offensive principle such as time of possession and their rushes and completions. I’m not a big believer in establishing the run early in a game because all it does is establish that you’ll be kicking field goals. I do believe in making big plays in the passing game and then being able to run the ball late in the game. Most successful teams throw to score and get the lead, then run the ball to keep the lead. That’s why I always look at the rushes and completions after each game to determine the ratios.

Here are the current league leaders in this category:

Note: Bold-faced teams have winning records…

2009 Rushes and Completions

1 – NE 55.0
2 – Min 53.5
3 – NO 53.3
4t – Hou 51.6
4t – Mia 51.6
6 – Cin 51.5
7 – NYG 50.6
8 – GB 50.4
9 – Pit 50.2
10 – Ind 49.8
11 – Bal 49.7
12 – NYJ 49.1
13 – Ari 48.9
14 – Atl 48.6
15t – Car 48.2
15t – Ten 48.2
17 – Jac 48.0
18 – Sea 47.5
19 – Den 46.9
20 – SD 46.5

21 – Was 46.2
22 – StL 46.0
23t – Dal 45.8
23t – Det 45.8
25 – Phi 45.7
26 – KC 44.5
27 – Chi 44.2
28 – Buf 42.4
29 – Cle 41.6
30 – TB 41.5
31 – SF 40.9
32 – Oak 39.4

Avg 47.6

Now, this formula doesn’t ensure that a team will win the game, but it does go a long way toward winning the game. To win in the NFL, you have to be balanced, and one of the many things to love about the Saints this year is their willingness to run the ball on fourth-and-1 in the first half last Monday. In the past, they might have tried and failed, or they might not even have attempted a run and just thrown an option route. Their toughness this year allows them to call runs as they move away from being a finesse team (no wonder they don’t want to re-sign Reggie Bush) to a physically tough team.

The Chargers are low because they don’t have a running game and have moved from being LaDainian Tomlinson’s team to Philip Rivers’ team (he deserves to be mentioned in the MVP race). The Eagles are low because we all know they hate to call running plays, and the Cowboys at times struggle to complete passes as well as run the ball. Denver has been inconsistent in both areas at certain times this year, and these four teams are the only ones in the bottom half of this list that have winning records. Not being ranked high in this area is not a death sentence as evidenced by last year’s rankings:

Note: Bold-faced teams did not make the playoffs…

2008 Rushes and Completions

1 – Bal 53.3
2 – NE 53.3
3 – Atl 51.6
4 – NO 50.7
5 – TB 50.4
6 – NYG 50.0
7 – Hou 49.9
8 – Was 49.8

9 – Phi 49.3
10 – Min 49.1
11 – GB 48.8
12 – Mia 48.6
13t – Den 48.3
13t – Ten 48.3
15 – NYJ 48.1
16t – Ind 47.7
16t – Pit 47.7
18 – Jac 47.6
19 – Ari 47.4
20 – Car 46.9
21 – Buf 46.8
22 – Chi 46.1
23 – SD 45.8
24 – Dal 45.6
25 – Cin 45.2
26 – StL 44.3
27 – SF 44.1
28 – KC 43.1
29 – Oak 42.6
30 – Sea 42.4
31 – Cle 40.4
32 – Det 39.6

Avg 47.3

Pittsburgh was ranked tied for 16th last year but was dominating on defense, and the Cardinals were 19th. So it’s possible to reach the Super Bowl with a lower than normal number, but it will take being good in other areas to excel.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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