clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Super Bowl XLV: Once Again, Passing Leads To Super Bowl Victory

Is it now, finally, time to retire the old axiom "Running the football, and stopping the run win championships"? 

Last night, we saw Packers QB Aaron Rodgers carve up a Steelers defense ranked second best in ANPY/A (the Packers were #1) on his way to the MVP trophy, and a 31-25 Packers victory.  He was 24-39 for 304 yards and 3 TDs, along with being sacked 3 times for 16 yards, which means a ANPY/A of 8.3, the most given up by the Steelers defense this season to a QB not named Tom Brady. He outperformed his QB counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, who threw 2 INTs, one returned for a TD, and didn't start playing well until Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, and Sam Shields, all key members of the Packers secondary, left the game with injuries.

Rodgers also did this with no threat from the running back position.  Only 11 carries by James Starks, for 52 yards. Of the 11 rushes, only 4 of them came in the second half, despite leading the entire time.  While we'll say the Packers rushed for 4.7 YPC, officially the team only rushed for 3.8 YPC, when you include the two kneel downs by Rodgers at the end of the game.  This coincided with the Packers defense being unable to stop the Steelers rushing attack, save a critical forced fumble early in the 4th quarter.

The lack of a running game by the Super Bowl winner, and the ability of the losing team to actually run the ball, has slowly started to become a trend lately.  Want to know the last time a winner rushed for over 4.0 YPC?

Your Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, who rushed for 4.5 YPC.  In fact, want to see a comparison of Passing vs. Rushing in past 5 Super Bowls?  Here you go:

Team Year ANPY/A Yds/Carry
Offense Defense Offense Defense
Packers 2010 8.286 5.146 4.73 5.48
Saints 2009 8.025 6.844 3.06 5.21
Steelers 2008 6.333 8.644 2.46 2.75
Giants 2007 6.541 4.698 3.68 2.81
Colts 2006 5.487 2.897 4.55 5.84

In four of the five Super Bowls, the winning team was better in ANPY/A, but worse in Yards/Carry. The Steelers winning in 2008 still baffles me, as they were thoroughly outplayed by the Cardinals, but one play turned the entire game.

It's become blatantly obvious that Passing the ball, and stopping the pass, win during the regular season.  I preach it every week, and the Winning percentages prove it.  People are less inclined to think this applies to the Playoffs, like it is a different game being played, but the conventional wisdom of "Run/Stop the Run to win the Super Bowl" does not apply to today's NFL. 

Since 2001, teams that are above average on both Offense and Defense in ANPY/A are 48-6 in the playoffs.  For Yards / Carry, only 26-25.  Pretty staggering difference.  But just remember: analysts and "experts" know better.