The NFL Average Score Dropped a Point per Game this Season. Why?

That might seem like an insignificant amount but it’s actually very significant, especially when you consider how the game is constantly being pushed towards more passing and more uptempo style of play. One might think that would lead to more points being scored but in 2017 scoring regressed. Why is that? I have a couple theories.

Running the ball is important to scoring points. There is this false narrative in today’s NFL that you run the ball to grind out the clock at the end of games and that you pass the ball to score points. Scoring points is best achieved through a balanced attack. To have a balanced attack you have to run the rock.

Just look at two of the greatest offenses ever… The Greatest Show on Turf Rams and the Peyton Manning led Colts. Peyton always could threaten to hand the ball off the Edge James, and the defense was forced to respect that. Kurt Warner had Marshall Faulk to hand off too. To beat these teams you had to be really good vs the run AND the pass.

Nowhere is running the rock more important than in the redzone. This is where I feel the NFL is losing its points. The power running game has been completely deemphasized in today’s NFL and because of that redzone efficiency, scoring TD’s and not FG’s has suffered greatly.

Should it surprise us that the L.A. Rams led the NFL in scoring this season? Todd Gurley was the best running back in the red zone and led the NFL with 13 TDs. It’s not a fluke that the team with the most points ran the ball extremely well around the goal line. This is not to say that you need the NFL TD leader in order to score points. What you need is balance, the threat of the run has to be an actual threat and not a paper tiger. NFL defenses have adapted to a pass-first league, it took some time but they have caught up, it’s time for the offenses to move in the other direction.

The way the NFL has officiated the game has done scoring no favors. While every score is reviewed and nit-picked we have seen a lot of TDs not stand that would have probably counted in years past.

The NFL is taking scores like this off the board ^ no wonder scoring is down.

One thing that I have noticed in my football watching is how offensive holding is called. They seem to call holding at a much higher percentage of running plays than pass plays. (I tried to find stats to back this up but I couldn’t find stats on holding calls broken up by play type)

It might be the case that holding is called more on pass plays, but if you consider more plays are pass plays it makes sense. Still, I think holding is being called wrong. The slightest minute grab for even a split second gets called in the run game. Meanwhile, you have offensive tackles holding edge rushers on almost every single play and they don’t get flagged. What this tells offensive play callers is that it’s safer to call pass plays because your linemen get more leeway to hold. I’d like to see holding called a little less in the run game and a bit more in the passing game. Give teams more incentive to run.

Penalties are drive killers and there are a lot more flags, not just for holding. Even a 5-yard penalty can make a modern OC afraid to run the ball. Teams are starting off first and 15, first and 20 after a penalty. Do you know what this does to the run game? It kills it. It’s a formula for 3 consecutive passing plays.

I think the following graphic helps illustrate my point as to why the running game is so important.


Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 2.34.37 PM
Source: The Football Database

At the top are the teams that run the ball the highest % of plays. Notice not a single team runs the ball 50% of the time. But start at the bottom how far do you have to go up before you find a team that made the playoffs? You have to go up 14 teams before you get to the Chiefs (a playoff team). Then look at the top 7 teams, all but one of them (Dallas) made the playoffs. It’s pretty clear that team that run are teams that win. There will always be exceptions, like the Patriots. The Patriots use the short passing game as a pseudo-run game, they don’t need to rely on the power run.

I get that when teams are winning they run out the clock and this will push up their rushing attempts in a game. Yet it seems to be the case that they are winning because of running. If a team isn’t good at running the ball then it does them little good to try and run out the clock. The opponent will just stop them and get the ball back. Running out the clock works best when your opponent can’t stop the run.

To conclude, balance = scoring NOT passing = scoring. Bring balance back to the NFL. A-Train Out.


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