Titans Playoff History Suggests Running Equals Winning

Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Old School the New, New School?

The Tennessee Titans are committing to the running game. Ew…Yikes…Oh no.

A majority of the early talk around the league has made it sound as if the Titans are crazy. Dust off the straight jacket because Mularkey and his version of the over the hill gang have gone bonkers. Otherwise, they would understand the following “facts”. Paid too much for DeMarco. Wasted a pick on Henry. Teams can’t run at will. Today’s league is a passing league. Rushing will stunt Mariota’s growth. Not enough hay for two workhorses. Exotic smash, what? Yada, yada, yada.

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Some of this is true, like today’s focus on passing and that no one understands what exotic smash mouth entails, but is creating a run first mentality really a bad idea?

Instead of focusing on the statistics of today or classic ball control statements, we are delving into the Tennessee Titans playoff history, since the AFL/NFL merger, to discover how rushing affected the outcomes.

Let’s rush right in:

Oiler/Titan – Playoff Games ( 28 )

Oiler/Titan – Playoff Victories (12)

Oiler/Titan – Playoff Winning Percentage (.428)

Team – Lead Rushing & Won Game (22)

Team – Lead Rushing & Won Game Winning Percentage (.785)

Oiler/Titan – Lost Rushing & Won Playoff Game (00)

Oiler/Titan – Lead Rushing & Lost Playoff Game (06)

Oiler/Titan – Turnovers (minus 8) when Lead Rushing & Lost Game (11-3)

Credit: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/oti/

What does this tell us?

  • It’s tough to be a Titan fan…The 12-16 record with no Super Bowl victories is not getting it done.
  • All forms of ball control are extremely important. A plethora of turnovers, most of them at critical times cost this franchise several playoff victories and possibly a Lombardi trophy or two.
  • Rushing the football was super, maybe even Super Bowl, important. Unless winning 80% of playoff games is somehow considered unimportant. Titans history suggests that there may be a reason why both PASS and LOSS are four letter words that end in double “S” while RUN is a three letter word that ends with a WIN.

The following are a few notable examples of playoff games where rushing proved important:

The 41-38 loss to the Buffalo Bills (1992) – The greatest comeback in NFL history…Unless, you were an Oiler fan. True, the Bills outrushed the Titans that day and therefore had the stats on their side, but the Oilers lead 35-3 in the third quarter. Usually, the team up 32 points runs more while the team down runs less. The Oilers’ Run N Shoot offense was not built to run out the clock…No wonder Buddy Ryan took a few swipes at Kevin Gilbride on the sidelines. A commitment to the running game would have most likely provided a win.

Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

The 23-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV (1999) – The Titans won the rushing battle that day and physically beat the snot out of the Rams. The stats say that the Titans should have won the game…One more play may have proved this to be true. Despite being down 16-0, the Titans kept pounding the rock. A commitment to the running game brought them back from the dead and nearly resulted a Super Bowl victory.

The 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens (2000) – The Titans rushed for more yards, but faced one of the toughest defenses ever to play the game. Had it not been for a blocked field goal return for touchdown followed by an interception return for a touchdown, these two teams may still be slugging it out today. The block field goal turned a probable 13-10 lead into a 17-10 deficit and knocked the wind out of the Titans. Knowing each inch was going to be hard to come by, the Titans uncharacteristically went to the air. A lack of commitment to the running game produced an INT for a TD and another deflating LOSS.

Although none of this is absolute proof that a commitment to the running game is going to provide more victories, playoff runs, and Super Bowl titles, it does present enough evidence to suggest that a solid running game is important. The key in football, and in life, is balance. Let’s hope that going old school is the new, new school and that it provides the balance needed to hoist the Lombardi trophy in the near future.