In today’s NFL of high flying offenses, this weekend might make you rethink changing your offensive philosophy as a coach. To win in the final round of the NFL playoffs and get to the Super Bowl, the four remaining teams will need to run the ball instead of the passing, which has overtaken the NFL. Smashmouth football, not passing yards, will determine who will be playing in the Super Bowl in cold New York in February.
In Denver, a battle of two great quarterbacks is taking place Sunday – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are meeting for the 15th time. The focus is not on these two though, as we all know they can and will throw the ball all over the field. The question is, which team will run the ball more effectively to keep the other teams’ legendary QB on the sideline?
The New England Patriots have rushed for more than 225 yards in both of their last two games. Legarrette Blount, the main ball carrier, has been tearing it up and rushed for 166 yards while scoring four touchdowns in New England’s last game against the Indianapolis Colts. Blount is a big, chain-moving ball carrier who is tough to bring down and falls forward. The Denver Broncos are going to have to focus on stopping this man before going after Brady.
Conversely, the Broncos will be looking to attack the Patriots’ 30th ranked run defense with their talented running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. The Broncos hold the NFL’s best passing attack, but getting their 15th ranked rushing game will be a point of emphasis, as Denver would be wise to avoid a shootout and keep Brady on the sideline as long as possible.
Whichever team is able to slow the rushing attack of the other team will be victorious. The more possessions you allot your quarterback, the more points he will put up. Offensive coaches will have to play defense with offense by keeping the other teams’ offense on the sideline.
In Seattle, the NFC’s Super Bowl representative will also be determined by rushing attack, but in this game, the focus is on the defenses stopping the run game that the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers both lean on. Making the young quarterbacks, Russell Wilson of Seattle and Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco, beat you will be the aim of defensive coaches.
The 49ers held the Seahawks’ Marshawn “Beastmode” Lynch to just a three and a half yard average per rush in each of the games these two teams played this season. The 49ers will need to do this again this week in Seattle, a place the Seahawks have only lost once in the past two seasons, to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in as many years. Frank Gore will be called upon to get tough yards all game, and the combination of Gore and Kaepernick running will be enough to keep the Seahawks defense on their toes.
Lynch and the Seahawks will be looking to build off of their rushing success of last week where Lynch rushed for 140 yards and averaged five yards per rush. Lynch will need to rush for more than four yards per carry Sunday to propel his team to a win and their first Super Bowl since 2005.
The 49ers and Seahawks are both ranked in the top 10 in rushing offense and defense. These two teams have been built on the previously retired notion that running the ball and defense wins championships, and through this formula, one of these two will make it to a Super Bowl.
In Denver and in Seattle, rushing attacks will provide a winner. While all four of the teams playing Sunday will obviously still need to throw to win, keeping the other team’s offense on the sideline will be a huge key to victory, and that is done through the ground game. In today’s league of prolific passing offenses, the classic-style smashmouth football will provide our Super Bowl contestants.