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Run/Pass Ratio in Pro Football Today

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  • Run/Pass Ratio in Pro Football Today

    Kerry J. Byrne wrote an article for COLD HARD FOOTBALL FACTS in August of 2010 entitled "Time for pass-happy offenses to return to basics of ground game?" It was published in Sports Illustrated with the synopsis "NFL offenses rely too much on pass, and scoring suffers."

    Byrne dispels the myth that current NFL offenses, which attempt more passes than rushing attempts, score more points. It's an interesting article which I recommend because it adds to the current conversation about Denver's offense.

    The highest scoring season in NFL History was 1948. The two highest scoring decades in NFL History were the 1960s and the 1950s. Those were times when teams ran more than they passed and the run was used to set up the pass with PAP being a large proportion of the pass attempts.

    In 2009 the NFL rushed 28 times per game and passed 33. In 2010 the NFL rushed 27 and passed 34 times per game. In the 2011 season, so far, including Denver's run heavy assault, the NFL is rushing 27 times and passing 34 times per game on average.

    During their current five game win streak, the Broncos are turning the trend on its head by rushing about 47 times per game and passing about 17 times, or 74% run heavy.

    The way the Broncos have been winning football games, and especially the way they haved played offense have come under harsh criticism from "experts" as being "unsustainable", "gimmicky" and "not able to produce a championship".

    It has been my impression that such criticism has been fueled by those who insist the only way to win in the NFL is by throwing more than running. They are extremely defensive about a run heavy offense. At first they said it wouldn't win games. Then they said it wouldn't win championships.

    If anything is unsustainable, it may be dominating the offense with passing. I wonder how many teams in the NFL this year have lost games while throwing over 30 passes? Maybe someone here can say.

    Balance between rushing and passing is desirable. Most games are about sixty plays; 30rush/30pass would be balanced as far as the plays are concerned. Last Sunday at Minnesota, the Broncos produced more yards passing than they did rushing. That was the first time in the streak that has happened.

    It came, however, in a game when they rushed 35 times and passed 15. It was also the most points scored since Oakland where they rushed 39 and threw 21. This confirms my feeling that the right ratio is about one-third pass to two-thirds run.

    The fact that there is more scoring when teams rush more than they pass is because rushing opens up the field for passing. By making direct snap/shotgun formations either run or pass possibilities, the Broncos have returned those formations to the balance they once had.
    "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus

  • #2
    I agree I have always said that running is paramount to being successful. Especially if you don't have an elite QB, with an elite QB running can make your team even more deadly.
    People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.



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    • #3
      great article! thanks for posting.

      I hope many people take from this that running more than you pass is NOT a gimmick offense.

      Builds around the idea that when you do pass it, you need to make it count and not make mistakes.

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      • #4
        Old football was all about running! Give the ball off to someone big, mean and fast. That was the old NFL way. With the emerging of passing QB's, it has kinda died off. So people think the norm is passing. I Like the up the gut run you down football. Its how i play Madden. I feel running sets up big play passes; and I like how running just sucks the clock out from the opponent. Its a solid way to win.
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        • #5
          It is just plane old smash mouth, where down the opponet football.
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          • #6
            Love that we have a strong running game. It really helps the play action passing game. Too few people realize that play action is one of the few ways to give yourself a numerical advantage(or at least even up the numbers) in the pass game. Teams that line up and throw every down are actually operating a numerical disadvantage in the passing game.
            So we operate at 11 vs 11(+1 over the Rest of the NFL) in the run game and our play action game adds to are passing games efficiency. When are the talking heads going to realize this is just smart football?

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            • #7
              The most deadly thing on earth is a balanced attack, but in this era, most teams can't run it well enough to even legitimately consider themselves balanced. The teams that have a great run game are the so-called "run-oriented" ones.

              Which means the next great team could be a so-called "run-oriented" team that effectively passes it.

              To me, "run-oriented" means you can run on somebody even when they think you are running, as opposed to occasionally "keeping them honest" with the run.

              The Broncos are on the verge a run attack that cannot be consistently stopped even when teams try. If they continue to add effective passing to that -- look out. The sky's the limit.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SM19
                I think Byrne's analysis is flat wrong. It should be intuitively obvious that a team that runs 35 times and passes 15 times while averaging 4.7 yards per rush and 13.5 yards per pass is very far from the correct ratio. A team shouldn't ever be devoting two thirds of its plays to something worth 4.7 yards per attempt in order to set up a remaining one-third of plays that are worth 13.5 yards per attempt. That's elementary game theory.

                There are some good examples, in our last few games, of coaches rationally choosing to run more than pass because the expected returns from our running game were greater. Those games suggest that the Broncos may have found a way, through the spread offense, to make running plays more valuable than they've been lately in the NFL. That's an argument in favor of the Broncos' innovation, but not necessarily for the inherent value of running more. But the Minnesota game is just a terrible example for the point Byrne is trying to make.
                The 4.7 makes the 13.5 possible.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SM19
                  So what if we shift one play from the 4.7 to the 13.5? What happens then?
                  What am I, Nostradamus?

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                  • #10
                    It may only be 4.7 yards on the field, but it is also 40 seconds of clock time. One incomplete pass stops the clock.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SM19
                      I think Byrne's analysis is flat wrong. It should be intuitively obvious that a team that runs 35 times and passes 15 times while averaging 4.7 yards per rush and 13.5 yards per pass is very far from the correct ratio. A team shouldn't ever be devoting two thirds of its plays to something worth 4.7 yards per attempt in order to set up a remaining one-third of plays that are worth 13.5 yards per attempt. That's elementary game theory.

                      There are some good examples, in our last few games, of coaches rationally choosing to run more than pass because the expected returns from our running game were greater. Those games suggest that the Broncos may have found a way, through the spread offense, to make running plays more valuable than they've been lately in the NFL. That's an argument in favor of the Broncos' innovation, but not necessarily for the inherent value of running more. But the Minnesota game is just a terrible example for the point Byrne is trying to make.
                      I think you need to read Byrne's article. He wrote that article in August of 2010. The ratio of two-thirds run and two-thirds pass is mine.

                      A rushing average of 4.7 yards per attempt is excellent by any football standard of which I am aware. 4.7 + 4.7 + 4.7 = 14.1

                      The relationship between pass and run plays is not reflected in stats. There is a cause/effect relationship of run and pass plays on the defense based on expectation before and reads after the snap. The Broncos aren't giving many good pre-snap reads to the D, so they are reacting which sets up PAP.

                      Byrne's article points out that the highest scoring seasons in the NFL were when the run was emphasized. In 1948, the highest scoring season in NFL History, teams averaged 38 rushes and 26 passes per game. The NFL averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt and 4 yards per rushing attempt that season.

                      There is a dynamic in the game of football between running and passing and the effect that each has on offenses and defenses. This dynamic cannot be expressed in statistics. A lot of it has to do with the five offensive linemen blocking and the RBs carrying the ball and the effect that has on defenses especially as time is running out in the fourth quarter.

                      I've watched football for a long time. I coached it some. All I can tell you is that if you run the ball more than you pass and stop/control the run on defense, that is a recipe for success. I think much of the skepticism of what the Broncos are doing comes from fantasy football people who only think in terms of stats.

                      Making direct snap/shotgun formations a rushing threat through the use of Option has played a big part in the Bronco's five game winning streak.
                      "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SM19
                        So what if we shift one play from the 4.7 to the 13.5? What happens then?
                        You can't swap yardages like that. With the best pass completion percentages being in the 60% range and the Broncos less than 50% your losing 9 yrds everytime you miss.

                        When you have an O that running almost at will gaining 4.7 at a time is something more often than not you should be taking.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SM19
                          I think Byrne's analysis is flat wrong. It should be intuitively obvious that a team that runs 35 times and passes 15 times while averaging 4.7 yards per rush and 13.5 yards per pass is very far from the correct ratio. A team shouldn't ever be devoting two thirds of its plays to something worth 4.7 yards per attempt in order to set up a remaining one-third of plays that are worth 13.5 yards per attempt. That's elementary game theory.

                          There are some good examples, in our last few games, of coaches rationally choosing to run more than pass because the expected returns from our running game were greater. Those games suggest that the Broncos may have found a way, through the spread offense, to make running plays more valuable than they've been lately in the NFL. That's an argument in favor of the Broncos' innovation, but not necessarily for the inherent value of running more. But the Minnesota game is just a terrible example for the point Byrne is trying to make.
                          The major flaw in your argument is your using the stat for yards per completed pass rather then yards per pass attempt, only 6.5 yards per pass attempt.I do think they should pass at least a bit more often then they are now though.

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                          • #14
                            When I studied the KC game in detail to see all the offensive line influence and individual blocking by the O-Line, I had the impression of just seeing 30+ minutes of sled drills.

                            The Chiefs were in a straight 50 D with the Guards uncovered. Beadles and Kuper were out on the Inside Backers anytime they wanted to. The Broncos also used a lot of influence to fool not only the Inside, but also the Outside Backers including Tamba Hali.

                            A KC player interviewed after the game, in which the Broncos fired out and rushed 55 times, said the KC defense was so beat up they would lose the next two games.

                            None of this stuff is quantifiable using statistics. It's better to be the hammer than the nail.

                            The Denver OL is thriving on this stuff and run blocking is more difficult than pass blocking. Go figure. If you like to hit, you want to play OL on a smashmouth running team. Quantify that.
                            "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus

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                            • #15
                              That's right.

                              Originally posted by SM19
                              In the Minnesota game? No, Tebow's raw yards per attempt were 13.46r. Ridiculous, but true. I will admit that adjusted yards per attempt (which I haven't bothered to calculate) would be a better measure, but I think even that would be about twice as many yards per pass attempt as per rush.
                              10 of 15 for 202 yards and 2 TDs = 13.5 ypa

                              It is ridiculous and it happened because the Vikings had eight in the box to stop Option which the Broncos only ran 4 times (2 give/2 keep).

                              One of the TD passes was off of Option play action.
                              "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus

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