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The Power of the Running Game

I harped on the relationship between being among the league leaders in time of possession and having a winning record earlier this week, and decided to take it a step further. This has become more of a passing league in recent years, but I'm still a little old school in that I think you need to combine a passing flair with a dedication to the run (maybe that's why I'm a sucker for the Midwest Coast Offense).

The top five teams in terms of time of possession - Baltimore, New York Giants, New England, Arizona and Skins - are all 6-3 or better, and have a combined record of 32-13. In a league of parity, that's pretty elite. Most of those teams also show up in this chart, which shows the teams that lead the NFL in what I'll call run disparity, the difference between the number of their rushing attempts and their opponent's:

Team (record) - number of rushes vs. opponent rushes

Baltimore (6-3) - 343 rushes to 200 for opponents - plus 143
Atlanta (6-3) - 312-221 - plus 91
Giants (8-1) - 295 - 202 - plus 93
Tennessee (9-0) - 302-218 - plus 84
Vikings (5-4) - 286 - 202 - plus 84
Skins (6-3)- 282-201 - plus 81

This is simple football. What you have here is a group of teams that want to pound the ball on the ground, and that play suffocating run defense, often to the point of making the opposing team abandon its run attack completely. Here's their ranking against the run - Baltimore (first), Minnesota (third), Skins (sixth), Giants (seventh), Tennessee (eighth) and Atlanta is an exception at 21st.

None of these teams have statistically dominant quarterbacks; in fact, Jason Campbell is by far the highest rated of any passer in the bunch, ranked seventh in the NFL with a 92.4 passer rating. Matt Ryan (Atlanta) is 11th with an 89.9 rating, Eli Manning (Giants) is 15th with an 88.8 rating, Joe Flacco (Baltimore) is 20th with a 79.7 rating, Kerry Collins (Tennessee) is 21st at 78.8 and Gus Frerotte (Minnesota) is 26th with a weak 74.0.

Two are using rookie quarterbacks - Atlanta and Baltimore - while Frerrotte and Collins are long-time back-ups and fossils Yet these six teams have a combined record of 40-12 and are in playoff contention.

(Just to round out the top 10 in rushing differential, New England [plus-69], Chicago [plus-49], Carolina [plus-38] and Pittsburgh [plus-36] are a combined 24-12. The highest rated of that group of QBs is Kyle Orton (Chicago) at ninth; Matt Cassel (New England) is 19th, Jake Delhomme (Carolina) is 22nd and Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) is 25th).

By comparison, the teams with the top five rated passers - San Diego (Philip Rivers), Arizona (Kurt Warner), Dallas (Tony Romo) and Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) are a combined 23-23, and three of those clubs are below .500.

By Jason La Canfora  |  November 13, 2008; 8:30 AM ET
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Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | November 13, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff....completely geeked for this game....

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I always dig your insight Jason, but you gotta be careful when it comes to playing around with stats. Time of possession corresponds with lots things, aside running attempts, like overall offensive (yards gained) & defense (yards given up). It certainly signifies domination across games, but in many facets.

Posted by: Josh7 | November 13, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Great stats JLC. And I agree too, I like this kind of football. It is "Redskin" football, and will be surprised if it really changes all that much over the course of the rest of the season.

This game could become the exception. JC has had career games against the 'Boys, and I don't see it changing Sunday Night.

Posted by: craig2 | November 13, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I'm praying that we don't get an update with the words, "Malcolm Kelly" and "swollen knee" today.....

I just read on the Times that SSprings is still hesitant with his injury. That could be a HUGE factor in this game..

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Greg, agreed, no Springs could be a very large factor. "hesitant" though most likely means that he just hasn't tested it enough to trust that it really is healed. Practice would be good to gain that trust back, but even if he doesn't practice much this week, one or two series come game time will deal with that.


Posted by: craig2 | November 13, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't it also follow that teams with a healthy lead will run more to run out the clock, while their opponents will be throwing more to try to catch up?

For example what's the 3rd/4th quarter run differential for teams with a lead of 10 points or more regardless of who they are and what their record is? My bet would be that it's a vast differential.

I think Jasno's point would be better made if he said something like "the Skins are exceptional in that they try not to abandon the run even when they get behind".

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Hi Greg, long time no speak. How do you feel about the whole DeAngelo thing? I seem to recall from some time ago (off-season) you were hugely against.

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Redcoat -- Agree with your point, it has been broken down before how well the Skins have done at running the ball(with or without success) from start to finish.

Posted by: craig2 | November 13, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Cork, your an idiot.

Posted by: craig2 | November 12, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Craig, you're a Mooncalf, a Nipcheese, a Puckfist, a Gagabash and a Quibberdick. Your girlfriend is a Ploot.

Posted by: TheCork | November 13, 2008 2:03 AM |

Wow. It doesn't get any better than this on RI during Dallas week? Two regulars -- one with a thesaurus -- each calling the other an idiot. What does this mean? Can we figure out whether there are (a) two idiots, (b) two geniuses, or (c) one idiot and one genius?

Assume they're both geniuses. Then each would be able to recognize that the other was a genius, and neither would call the other an idiot. So, they can't both be geniuses, can they?

Can one be an idiot and the other a genius? Well, the genius could correctly identify the idiot, wouldn't he? But the idiot would be confused. Half the time he'd call the genius a genius, and half the time he'd call him an idiot. Since these guys only call the other an idiot, then we can rule out the possibility that one's an idiot and one's a genius, can't we?

So, we're down to one possibility: They're both idiots. On the principle "takes one to know one" then they'd readily recognize each other. But, would they point out that the other's an idiot since it would be kind of self-incriminating. By calling the other one an idiot, each is admitting that he's an idiot. Of course, two idiots wouldn't be able to figure that out, would they?

Posted by: talent_evaluator | November 13, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Hey Beantown...when are you arriving? The forecast calls for rain today, Friday and Saturday, I'm sorry to say....I had another thought on the Metro today [please refrain from smartsjk replies] about your visit and another place that I think is very cool is the National Building Museum. It has a great gift shop, too.

Posted by: CindyBoren | November 13, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

RC, where have you been?? Listen, get your priorities STRAIGHT pal.

Posting on RI


Let me know if you have questions???

Um..I'm actually good with the Hall pickup to be honest, I was against using a 2nd round pick on him most likely, when it first came out, but for free, and for the vet minimum, I'll take it. Read a piece in SI yesterday stating he was starting to grasp the Raider defense better, and it said he was showing his pro-bowl form.
So yeah, I'm on board with this pickup....

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Cindy, packing up the car and hitting the road around 6:30 tonight, should be there around 2 in the am. Thanks for the update on the NBM, they had this posted on that site:

"The Museum will be closed to the public November 13-15. We apologize for the inconvenience"

So thats good to know, thanks for the heads up.

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

t_e good to 'see' you sir. Safely ensconced back in the bosom of DC again now? Apologies if you've been back for a while, I haven't.

Personally I prefer the "Schrodinger's Mooncalf" thing where because of Quantum Uncertainty, each person exists in the duality of the 'Idiot/Not Idiot' states until fixed by observation.

Sadly, that means that by dint of the observation cited by yourself above, they are both currently in the 'Idiot' state.


Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I have a burning question for fair Cindy:

What pray, do they house the National Building Museum in?

Greg, sorry Sir. If you place 'income' at the top of the list I'm in complete agreement!

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and is Corkczar really Skippy too?

If yes, then he isn't a complete idiot, maybe just a partial one?

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse


Where you been? New job? New house? New wife? Explain yourself.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | November 13, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

t_e, imbued with the pie-in-ear spirit that made this country great I decided to strike out on my own (aka I got laid off).

Since then I've been building my own financial juggernaut of a business, and it's getting to the point where I can afford to eat almost every week whether I need to or not - hurrah!

Et vous Brutus?

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and is Corkczar really Skippy too?

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:09 AM

Yeah, he claimed it, and he posted a very clever and convincing Skippy over his name. I think it may have been sleight of hand, but I can't figure out how he would have done it if he's not Skippy.

Look, Skippy has a metal plate in his head. So maybe he's an idiot savant. That's still an idiot.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | November 13, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

By the way...does anyone know if the GIANTS vs REDSKINS is Fox's protected game in the flexible scheduling or is the NFL gonna move that game to SUNDAY NIGHT in 2 weekends???

The only other game that = that matchup is the Steelers vs Patriots game.


Posted by: goosedude | November 13, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

rc, sorry to hear about you losing your job, been there, my best to you. Sounds like you've somewhat landed on your feet, however. Congrats for striking out on your own, let me put a check in the mail to you today, for 1,000,000.00 bonus points to help you get started.

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

beep beep

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Congrats for striking out on your own, let me put a check in the mail to you today, for 1,000,000.00 bonus points to help you get started.

Posted by: BeantownGreg | November 13, 2008 10:17 AM |


If he doesn't cash the check, that means it's his first sale and he had the check framed.

Posted by: talent_evaluator | November 13, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Just to cheer you up in Dallas week, take a look at all the negative fan comments on this Grrls blog. :)

It will warm the cockles of your hearts!

Posted by: Redcoat | November 13, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

To: ifthethunderdontgetya

It never gets old, and such as.
Agree with Beantown, totally geeked for this game. Just hoping that Smooty and Double Move will pick Romo clean.

And now, please join in song--

The stars go out
As Skins fans shout
"Beat down the boys of Texas"
Romo's dream
Turns into nightmare scream
Beat down the boys of Texas.

And such as.

Posted by: InRealAmerica | November 13, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

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