Running toward a title

Running toward a title

Credit: AP

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) scores a touchdown past Chicago Bears safety Danieal Manning (38) during the first half of the NFC Championship NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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by TED MADDEN / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 25, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 25 at 2:51 PM

Quarterbacks ran more frequently, and more effectively, during the 2010 regular season than they had in the previous few seasons.

Just from watching games this year, my lovely wife and I noticed that quarterbacks seemed to be running more than they had in the past, and the numbers bore that out. We looked at the top 25 rushing quarterbacks from 2007-2010, and then combined their numbers to come up with these totals:

2010: 4,588 yards, 38 touchdowns

2009: 3,517 yards, 30 touchdowns

2008: 3,811 yards, 38 touchdowns

2007: 3,287 yards, 27 touchdowns

Before we go much further, it should be noted that Michael Vick's big year running the ball (676 yards and 9 touchdowns) skews the numbers and helps validate what we saw. So keep that in mind. You can find our complete top 25 list for the 2010 season at the end of this article.

This year's Super Bowl quarterbacks are two of the better scramblers in the NFL -- Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Rodgers was third among quarterbacks in total rushing yards -- 356 and 4 touchdowns; Roethlisberger ranked 9th (176, 2 TDs) despite missing the first four games of the season due to his suspension. As effective as these two guys are running the ball, both are pass-first quarterbacks, which is an important distinction. You don't want a quarterback who is looking to run, or one that is running because he can't read the defense.

As defenses get more exotic and athletes get faster, having a quarterback willing to run becomes another way for the offense to convert third downs and keep drives alive. And doing those things is magnified in the playoffs, when each game is win-or-go-home. The numbers bear that out too ....

Of the final four quarterbacks (Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Mark Sanchez), only Sanchez was a non-factor as a runner; the others scored at a much higher rate than they had during the regular season. Cutler scored twice on the ground in Chicago's win over Seattle (he had four rushing touchdown all year). Rodgers also has two playoff rushing touchdowns, which is half of his total for 15 regular season games. Roethlisberger has scored once on the ground in two playoff games, after scoring twice during the regular season.

Roethlisberger has developed a reputation as a dangerous quarterback outside the pocket, and that's where he's at his best. His size and strength allow him to shed tacklers and keep plays alive, so his wide receivers have more time to get open. He will run, but prefers to use his mobility to buy more time to throw, rather than turn up the field and run. Rodgers does this too, but seems to be a little quicker to recognize a good opportunity to run and take off. Against the Bears on Sunday, there was one play where the defense was playing man-to-man, with their backs turned to Rodgers. He recognized it and ran for 25 yards, most of those gained before the linebackers and defensive backs even knew he was out of the pocket.

If you're a gambler, that might be a fun prop bet -- how many rushing touchdowns will be scored by quarterbacks in the Super Bowl? I couldn't find a line, but I would set it at 1/2.

 

2010 QB rushing leaders

1. Michael Vick, 676, 9 TDs

2. Josh Freeman, 364, 0 TDs

3. Aaron Rogers, 356, 4 TDs

4. David Garrard, 279, 5 TDs

5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 269, 0 TDs

6. Jay Cutler, 232, 1 TD

7. Tim Tebow 227, 6 TDs

8. Jason Campbell, 222, 1 TD

9. Ben Roethlisberger, 176, 2 TD

10. Donovan McNabb, 151, 0 TD

11. Jon Kitna, 147, 1 TD

12. Colt McCoy 136, 1 TD

13. Matt Cassell, 125, 0 TD

13. Vince Young, 125, 0 TD

15. Shaun Hill, 123, 0 TD

16. Matt Ryan, 122, 0 TD

17. Troy Smith, 121, 1 TD

18. Joe Webb, 120, 2 TDs

19. Drew Stanton, 113, 1 TD

20. Mark Sanchez, 105, 3 TDs

21. Kyle Orton, 98, 0 TD

22. Joe Flacco, 84, 1 TD

23. Stephen McGee, 74, 0 TD

24. Tyler Thigpen, 73, 0 TD

25. Eli Manning, 70, 0 TD

 

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