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A Top Running Game & Defense is the Rule to NFL Success, Not the Exception

“Having a top running game and top defense are wonderful ideals to strive for, but the formula for success usually relies on having an elite quarterback.”

I disagree. I think it is the opposite actually. An elite QB leads to success only so long as there is a good defense and good running game in place.

A prime example is that Peyton Manning did not do squat in the playoffs until he got a good defense and decent running game.

Super Bowls the last 10 years:
2000: Rams over Titans
2001: Ravens over Giants
2002: Patriots over Rams
2003: Buccaneers over Raiders
2004: Patriots over Panthers
2005: Patriots over Eagles
2006: Steelers over Seahawks
2007: Colts over Bears
2008: Giants over Patriots
2009: Steelers over Cardinals

What is the common theme in all those match-ups? Strong defenses and good running games. Yes, the Super Bowls featured elite QBs the likes of Tom Brady (3-1), Kurt Warner (1-2), Ben Rothlisberger (2-0) and Peyton Manning (1-0). But there were also average QBs the likes of Steve McNair, Kerry Collins, Trent Dilfer*, Brad Johnson*, Rich Gannon, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman & Eli Manning*.

(*Won Super Bowl)

So, out of the 20 teams to make the last 10 Super Bowls, 10 of them had average QBs paired with solid running games and great defenses. So saying that getting to the Super Bowl with a good running game, good defense and average QB is the exception does not hold up to scrutiny, in my opinion.

What each Super Bowl team had in common over the past decade has been good running games and defenses. And the better defenses sometimes overcame elite QBs (Giants over Brady, Patriots over Warner).

You can even go back to the 1990s to see a similar pattern. Recall the Buffalo Bills losing to good defensive teams in the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. Giants, ‘Skins and Cowboys also had great running games to complement and open things up for their QBs’ passing games.

So, apply that to the Bears 2009-2010 season. Their defense was decimated by injuries and they had no running game, with Matt Forte being injured and slowed the entire season, Kevin Jones being injured and missing the entire season and the offensive line being incompetent in run blocking all season. Combine that with the Bears taking Devin Hester off their special teams, taking away their punt and kick return threat, and that left all the pressure of the team’s chances for success squarely on the shoulders of Jay Cutler and the Bears’ passing game.

No team, not even with an elite QB, can overcome that. All one has to do is look to the failed playoff runs of Peyton Manning in the past when he had no defense or running game to complement his passing game. Or Tom Brady and the Patriots this year. Or Philip Rivers and the Chargers this year. There are countless examples of elite QBs not being able to succeed until their game was complemented by a good running game and good defense.

If the Chicago Bears expect to turn things around, they will focus on improving their defense and running game. The problem this season was NOT the passing game. The problem was that all the pressure for this team’s success was on the passing game, since the other areas of the team were not performing adequately.

Improve the running game and that will open things up for Cutler to succeed even more in the passing game. One only has to look at the New York Jets and how the running game has helped Mark Sanchez’s development, easing him into the position and taking the pressure off his shoulders. And where Mark Sanchez has made rookie mistakes (ie turnovers), the great defense is there to help limit the damage. Again, this takes immense pressure off of Mark Sanchez.

The same principle would work for the Bears. Improve the running game and the defense and that will go a long way to helping Jay Cutler — and the entire team — succeed.

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January 18, 2010 , 11:19PM - Posted by | NFL, Sports

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