Winners Run

October 6th, 2021

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Yes, it still matters.

Even in this pass-happy league, running on empty is no way to go.

One positive aspect of Tampa Bay’s narrow win at Foxborough was the resurrection of an effective ground game as Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones combined for 116 yards on 26 carries.

Establishing an effective run game helped the Bucs reel off 20 more snaps than the Patriots on a night when Tom Brady barely completed half of his throws en route to a 70.8 passer rating. Tampa Bay dominated time of possession, allowing an injury-ravaged defense to remain fresh.

Ira Kaufman wants more of punishing Leonard Fournette

“Obviously, as an offensive lineman you want to run the ball,” said Buc O-line coach Joe Gilbert. “The way they played us, the weather, kind of played into saying we’re going to have to tote the ball a little more — and we did. Guys got connected to their blocks … they were finishing.”

Through three games, Tampa Bay’s offensive balance was way out of kilter. Even with Sunday night’s course correction, the Bucs lead the NFL in pass attempts, completions and passing yards.

Other metrics tell a very different story.

The eight teams with the most rushing attempts — Cleveland, Tennessee, New Orleans, Buffalo, Baltimore, Dallas, Arizona and Carolina — are a combined 23-9. None of those clubs has a losing record.

How about the eight bottom-feeders?

The Steelers, Bucs, Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks and Eagles sport a combined 10-22 mark, with Tampa Bay the only outlier with a winning record.

That’s quite a barometer.

“What I think the running game does for a quarterback is it gives you some breathers,” says Chargers first-year coach Brandon Staley. “You don’t need a good running game to be a good play-action team, but what you need the running game for is the physical element of the game.”

During their closing 8-game winning streak last season, the Bucs averaged 27 rushing attempts. That’s five more carries per game than Tampa Bay averaged while going 7-5 before the bye week.

“A lot of people think, hey, we’re going to throw the ball all over the place and we showed we can line up, we can run the ball and we can be efficient doing it and not be one-dimensional,” Gilbert said this week. “I think the guys took pride in that as a group. It was good to see.”

If the Bucs win, Brady won’t carp about a reduced workload going forward. The most passes he ever threw in the regular season (637) came in 2012.

At his current pace, Brady would enter the 17th game with 736 pass attempts, topping Matt Stafford’s all-time mark.

Looking out for No. 1, writes Sage Ira.

As Bruce Arians often reminds us, rushing attempts can be just as critical as rushing efficiency. That’s why the New England game was so encouraging.

“If you’re just a passing team, there’s a physical element to the game that the defense doesn’t have to respect,” Staley said. “That’s the truth. The running game challenges your physicality, and that’s why I think the run game is important to a quarterback. It’s going to allow him literally to have more space to operate when you throw the football.”

At the moment, Fournette has established himself as the lead back.

Jones scored Tampa Bay’s only touchdown on a rainy night in Foxborough, where Gilbert’s maulers played a little bully ball. It felt good to push a defensive front around instead of relying entirely on creating a protection racket in front of a 44-year-old quarterback.

You want to look out for No. 1? You do that by looking out for No. 12.

If I’m Brady, Run Till You Drop sounds like a pretty good game plan.


15 Responses to “Winners Run”

  1. zzbuc Says:

    Well said Mr Kaufman……Well said

  2. Darin Says:

    Finally one that makes sense. Its football dont be passive, run with an attitude. Gota beat em up at some points in the game or you’re gona get beat.

  3. SlyPirate Says:

    “You pass to score. You run to win.”
    -Jimmy Johnson

  4. unbelievable Says:

    Here’s some more metrics for ya Ira!

    This is the percentage of rushing plays for the offense of the last decade of Super Bowl winners:

    2020 Bucs – 38% for the season, 47% in playoffs
    2019 chiefs – 38% for the season, 39% in playoffs
    2018 Pats – 45% for the season, 47% in playoffs
    2017 Eagles – 44% for the season, 45% in playoffs
    2016 Pats – 43% for the season, 34% in playoffs
    2015 Broncos- 40% for the season, 47% in the playoffs
    2014 Pats – 40% for the season, 38% in the playoffs
    2013 Seahawks – 52% in regular season, 55% in the playoffs
    2012 Ravens – 44% for the season, 51% in playoffs

    Before Sunday night, the Bucs were averaging only 24% run plays this season.

    We are perhaps the best team in the league on play action passes. But they don’t work if you don’t establish some semblance of a run game.

    Here’s some more metrics… Over the past 2 seasons, when RoJo OR Fournette have more than 10 carries per game, this team is 14-2

    When neither of them has more than 10 carries, we are 2 – 4.

  5. unbelievable Says:

    Whoops, wrong number on that last part.

    15 – 2 when they have over 10 carries, 2 – 5 when they have 10 or less.

  6. Boston Says:

    The running game gives your defense a rest. Plain and simple. You want your defense to be able to do something at the end of the game – Run

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    BA makes it sound like he really loves to run the ball, and yet we’re pushing the bottom of the pile when it comes to rushing attempts (#31), rushing yardage (#30) and 1st downs achieved by rushing the ball (tied for #28). Bucs have had 269 plays thus far this season, but have only rushed 78 times … 29% run-pass ratio. Only the Steelers (26.8% run-pass ratio) run less than we do. But ya, BA loves to run the bull.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Oops, make that ‘run the ball’.

  9. Hodad Says:

    Joe, you need to put Ira in moderation. Doesn’t he know his boss thinks the Bucs should pass, pass, than pass some more? How dare he?

  10. Medicated Pete Says:

    @Defense Rules

    BA talks outta both sides of his mouth. I call him BS

  11. BucsBeBack (Artist formally known as: BringBucsBack) Says:

    Consider the Rams game; the Bucs rushed what, 8 times? One week later the Cards smoke ‘em with a run game! The Bucs’ play-calling, on both sides of the ball, has been poor and predictable!

  12. BigMacAttack Says:

    Too true. Pound the Rock! Ira, I’m so glad you teamed up with JBF. This is my only Bucs site. It’s my dessert at night. I don’t even go to the Bucs website anymore. Been years actually because everything is right here. Great job guys!

  13. BigPoppaBuc Says:

    My guess is BA and the Bucs offense wants to run the ball, but it’s always hard to do early in games cuz everyone’s jacked up and physical. And there’s just way too much talent at QB and WR to not try and use it to get the lead. Sure. We lack commitment to the run game. But it’s hard to blame them sometimes.

  14. Jim Says:

    Did you lose because you passed or did you pass because you’re losing? The correlation cuts both ways…

  15. Brandon Says:

    I’ve been saying this since week ONE. This is not the same team as last season when we ran the ball down the stretch, helping our pass protection, play action, controlled the clock, rested our D, and set up short yardage situations. We are running the ball too little. That’s the only thing wrong with our running game, we don’t do it enough.