The Green Bay Packers prevailed in yesterday’s Super Bowl with a total of 50 yards rushing. 50! Furthermore, in the last 3 Super Bowls, the winning team has not rushed for more than a total of 60 yards, and, in the last 4 Super Bowls, the winning team has not rushed for more than a total of 100 yards. What does all of this mean? Well, it may mean that the tried and true formula - running the football and stopping the run equals victory - may no longer be the way to win in the NFL.
As I have stated in earlier posts, NFL rules have been adjusted over the past 20 or so years to open up the passing game and increase scoring. But, what affect have such rule changes, and the way offense is currently played, had on NFL rushing attacks? The average total rushing yards gained by the winning team in the past 10 Super Bowls is only 114.4 yards. In contrast, the average total rushing yards from the winners of the Super Bowls played in the 1980’s is 175.4 yards – a dramatic difference. Additionally, while average yards passed by the winning Super Bowl team has decreased in the past 10 Super Bowls (247 passing yards averaged) relative the average yards passed by the winning team in the Super Bowls played in the 1980’s (259 passing yards averaged), the decrease is not as substantial as the decrease in rushing yards previously shown.
NFL offenses, for better or worse, may have changed permanently. The days of a league dominated by teams with the ability to run the ball and stop the run may be a thing of the past.