Rushing Stats Analysis – Find the Gap Week 2
After what seems like an eternity, the NFL season is underway. What do the Week 1 rushing stats tell us about the performance of the highlighted teams from last week’s article?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Rushing stats : 30 carries, 125 yards -4.2 yards per carry
Damien Harris presented himself as the Patriots lead back in the season opener, with 23 carries for 100 yards exactly. One of these carries went for 35 yards. No rushing touchdowns this week, and a few issues with ball security to address. But there are positive signs overall for the ground game in New England.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Rushing Stats: 28 carries, 131 yards and 2 TDs (4.7 yards per carry)
Raheem Mostert started this season very much like 2020. 2 very effective runs…and an injury. In his place, Elijah Mitchell took the ball 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell’s touchdown also came off a 38 yard carry, his longest of the night. JaMycal Hasty also scored on his sole carry from the three yard line. The rushing touchdowns set the precedent at the start. In fact, it was only a valiant fightback from the Lions that likely limited any further damage damage on the ground.
Rushing stats: 21 carries, 75 yards – 3.6 ypc
As predicted, the Steelers line found it hard to provide any protection for Najee Harris. As a result, the Running Back only managed 45 yards off 16 carries – an unimpressive 2.8 yards a carry. Chase Claypool’s 25 yard sweep provided the longest run of the night. But there are real concerns for Pittsburgh’s offense, who relied heavily on a defensive score to get the victory.
WEEK 2 RUSHING SELECTIONS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Vs. Falcons)
The Bucs appeared several times on last year’s article series. This year stands to be no different – I’m highlighting the Tampa Bay ground game very early on.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
- Tampa face the Falcons this week, who conceded 173 yards on the ground against the Eagles. Philadelphia stretched themselves into a comfortable lead, which lead to a lot of rushing attempts later in the game.
- The Bucs’ Week 1 game against the Cowboys was a close affair, which didn’t allow them to move to the run game to wind down the clock. Their opponents could offer something different this week. The Falcons offense has shown signs of struggle in pre-season and Week 1, and they should find themselves out matched by the Tampa Bay defensive unit. If the Bucs take their chances, they should pull ahead and resort more to the ground game.
- Tampa Bay retained their starting offensive line from last season, which should help keep a semblance of continuity from last season. This should also help the Running Backs when it comes to finding those gaps.
- While he didn’t have a Week 1 to remember, Ronald Jones’ 2020 performance against the Falcons was a much stronger showing. In just 12 carries, Rojo peeled off 78 yards and a touchdown – at 6.5 yards per carry. Leonard Fournette also found the endzone in the Week 15 reverse fixture. There is scope for the rushing game to be effective in Week 2.
Washington Football Team (vs. Giants)
After a close loss in the opening week of the season, I’m predicting a Washington bounceback.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
- Washington found themselves on the wrong end of a closely-fought contest in Week 1. Despite this, the Washington ground game kept the rushing game alive, with 27 carries in the game. It is reassuring to know that the Washington offensive coaches will continue to rely on that ground game to move drives forward, even when scores are closely contested.
- This plays well into the narrative of Giants games being very close matches. This was certainly the case last year – 10 Giants games were one-score affairs.
- Another key point is the effectiveness of the Washington rushing. 17 of the team’s 27 carries went for 4 yards or more, including eight that went through the centre and guard positions. If this can be continued against the Giants, then surely success will follow.
- Something that may have derailed the offense was the blow in losing Ryan Fitzpatrick to injury. Thankfully, Taylor Heinicke seems to have landed on his feet, putting in a great performance in Fitz’s stead. This positive outcome takes the pressure off the rushing game, as the Giants’ defence still needs to focus on both offensive approaches.
- Carries around the left end of the Giant’s defensive line were the most effective in 2020. Denver’s offense also thrived in this direction during Week 1. So this could be a perfect opportunity for J.D. McKissic to reproduce his effective carries against New York once again. And, after virtually no involvement in Week 1, this would be his perfect recovery tonic for the second week of the season.
- All this couples with New York’s weak offensive line mismatching with Washington’s fearsome rushing defence. If the Football team nullify the Giants early on, this game could be further apart than history tells us.
Cleveland Browns (vs. Texans)
The Browns were handed a defeat to the Chiefs in a dramatic turnaround match. But, while the Superbowl finalists snatched the victory, there could be a chance for Cleveland to find that rushing success again.
REASON TO CONSIDER
- Although Cleveland didn’t get the win against Kansas City, their first-half performance was a sight to behold. Three first-half rushing touchdowns set the tone, with the ground game highly effective against the struggling defence.
- In comparison, the Jaguars stuttered against the Texans, and quickly resorted to an air-based offense. This eventually led to a desperate Trevor Lawrence getting picked off three times – and a blow out. As a result, the Texans were never truly tested on the ground against the Jaguars. That being said, the Jags still managed a healthy 4.36 yards per carry. This week’s match holds something a lot sterner.
- A lot can be said for the mistakes that were made last week. In short, they were uncharacteristic. Nick Chubb fumbling is almost unheard of. A fumbled punt is even rarer. And an intensely noisy stadium can play havoc on even the loudest of play-callers. It was a far cry from the ruthless fourth-quarter Cleveland offense in 2020. But the circumstances offer a much more favourable environment for them this week.
Join me next week to see how these teams fare!
Until then, Keep rushing!