NFL: Cities Where the Running Game Still Reigns

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Nov 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) runs the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For Houston, Matt Schaub certainly isn’t a pushover under center. However, with an average of 132.7 yards on the ground each game, good for 8th in the league, Houston is able to repeatedly set up it’s veteran quarterback with effective play-action calls.

Arian Foster and Ben Tate have both become dangerous weapons for the Texans, but let’s focus on Foster for a moment. He brings a career average of 4.5 yards every time that he carries the ball. For that reason, Houston gladly handed him the ball again and again, as he totaled 351 carries this last season. With a workhorse that gets his hands on the ball that often, Schaub was called for a play-action pass a total of 25% of the time.

That’s a fourth of the plays that Houston ran all year-long. Those plays are the main reason for Andre Johnson’s longest plays of the season, and another effect of play-action? It sucks the linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage. Time and time again, we saw Owen Daniels or Garrett Graham break open in the middle for first down yardage because the linebackers were playing catch-up.

Dec. 23, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA: Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For the Chicago Bears, Matt Forte was his usual self, racking up an average of 4.4 yards per play. Although he had about 100 less carries than Arian Foster did, he still carried a lot of the load on the Chicago offense. Now, with 1094 yards in 2012, he doesn’t seem to be the main factor when the Bears have the football.

However, he is the main running back in a system that averaged 123.1 yards per game on the ground. While that number is good for 10th in the league, their passing offense is ranked a dismal 29th. So while the Bears are successful on a stout defense, most of their yards gained doesn’t come through the air from Jay Cutler.