On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders rushed for a season high 203 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 15-0 win. All season when the Raiders have rushed the ball successfully, it has translated into victories. The team has a 3-2 record when they rush for over 100 yards and a 2-1 record when reaching 135 yards on the ground.
As the NFL continues to evolve into a passing league, running the ball seems to take a back seat. However, a team's ability to run effectively correlates to their success on the field. The top five rushing teams per game in the NFL are the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and Houston Texans. All of these teams boast a winning record and are in playoff contention. Even the New England Patriots, who are known as one of the league's most pass happy teams, are 8th in the NFL with 136.7 rushing yards per game.
It is not surprise why solid running teams are successful. It allows them to dictate the pace of the game and control time of possession. Third downs are much more manageable because they are distance to go is less. The defense gets more time to rest while the other defense takes the physical beating of continuously trying to stop the run. A team's offensive line is able to get into a better rhythm because their first step is forward instead of back in pass protection.
For the Oakland Raiders, their running game has determined their success this season. In the team's four victories, they have rushed for over 100 yards in three. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Raiders went for 119 yards on the ground. In both wins against the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland rushed for 135 yards and 203 yards. The only time the Raiders won without a 100 yard rushing day came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, where they only mustered 69 yards on the ground. Despite losing to the Atlanta Falcons on a field goal as time expired, the Raiders controlled the line of scrimmage rushing for 149 yards. It was a game they played neck and neck until the final seconds.
There have been variables that led to the Raiders inability to run effectively in their 10 losses. In many of those games, Oakland got off to bad starts and trailed early, but when the team was ineffective in the running game, they lost. In their 10 losses this season, the Raiders averaged 73.2 rushing yards per game. With the 203 yard game against the Chiefs, the Raiders rushing average jumped eight yards for the year. They currently rank 29th in the NFL with less than 90 yards per game. When quarterback Carson Palmer throws for 300 or more yards, Oakland's record is 0-6 in 2012.
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