Proof That Poor Defense Vs. Run Means No Success

Following the Browns’ 33-30 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, we discussed again the team’s lack of success in stopping the ground game.

We have always believed that if you can’t run the ball and cannot stop the run, you will not be a successful NFL team.

Checking out the last three complete NFL seasons, here is what we found.

For 2014, the five best teams in stopping the run (with their record in parenthesis) are as follows–

Detroit (11-5)
Denver (12-4)
Seattle (12-4)
Baltimore (10-6)
New York Jets (4-12)

Four of the five teams won more than ten games, a mark of big time success in pro football.  Here are the worst teams in stopping the run last season:

Cleveland (7-9)
Tennessee (2-14)
New York Giants (6-10)
New Orleans (7-9)
Kansas City (9-7)

Outside of the Chiefs, those teams did not have a winning record.

It’s not much different in 2013.

Arizona (10-6)
Carolina (12-4)
New York Jets (8-8)
San Francisco (12-4)
Cincinnati (11-5)

Chicago (8-8)
Atlanta (4-12)
New England (12-4)
Jacksonville (4-12)
Buffalo (6-10)

Apparently, unless you have Tom Brady as your quarterback, you aren’t making the playoffs if you can’t stop the opponent from running the ball.

It’s more of the same in 2012.  The worst teams in stopping the ground game were New Orleans (7-9), Buffalo (6-10), Jacksonville (2-14), Indianapolis (11-5), and Arizona (5-11).

Again, if you have Andrew Luck behind center, you can overcome not being able to defend the run.

The best teams at stopping the run in ’12 were Tampa Bay (7-9), Pittsburgh (8-8), Denver (13-3), San Francisco (11-4-1), and Washington (10-6).

Maybe Robert Griffin III wasn’t solely responsible for the Redskins success that year.

So, what conclusions can be made?

In the last three seasons, only two of the 15 teams who were the worst defensively against the run had any success and both of them have great quarterbacks that allowed them to overcome it.

On the other hand, 11 of the 15 teams who were able to stop the run won 10 games or more.

That’s a pretty strong indictment that you cannot be weak in stopping the run and still be a successful team in the NFL.

Apparently, the Browns’ coaching staff and front office do not look at those numbers because as you can see, they were worst in the NFL in this category a year ago, and five games into this season, they have not improved.

We found it funny yesterday that when Scott Solomon was put on the injured reserve list yesterday, Cleveland replaced him with a defensive back.

We know Joe Haden will miss the game against Denver on Sunday, so there is a need there (insert your Justin Gilbert comment here), but it is equally clear the Browns need help against the run.

Mike Pettine seems to feel that since the NFL is a passing league these days, it is of utmost importance to defend it.  He’s right, but you can’t ignore the running game.

Right now, the Browns would be better off with the old “rubberband” defenses they had in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

At least then, they wouldn’t be getting gashed for big gains consistently.  Right now, they are giving up about four plays of 20+ yards on a weekly basis.

The Browns need to address this weakness, and need to do it right now.  They may have to make some concessions in pass defense to do it, but the numbers show, not stopping the run means you will likely have a losing record.



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