NFL teams always need to be able to run the football, it’s just the nature of the game. If you can run the ball, you can effectively play-action off of it, keep defenses on their heels, hit on big plays in both the run and the passing game. In short, being able to run the ball makes your offense much, much more versatile.
That’s one thing the Falcons haven’t been able to do very well in the 2012 season. There have been games where they have run the ball reasonably well, but they’ve been anything but consistent at doing so. It’s exemplified by Michael Turner’s game against New Orleans when he had about 15 carries for 70 yards, but then 7 carries for 14 yards against Carolina. It’s just a very interesting that the Falcons have had the type of success as a team that they’ve experienced without much consistency in the run game.
Against the New York Giants, it becomes much, much more important that the Falcons run the ball. They can’t just slam Michael Turner into the back of the offensive line, let the defense make the tackle, and basically waste a down. Even if the Falcons don’t break any huge run plays, they must average better than 3 yards per carry. Here’s why.
First the obvious things that are necessary against any team in the NFL. It’s important to get positive yardage on every down to stay away from third-and-long situations. An offense’s ability to get first downs goes way up when they are in 3rd & 4 or shorter situations. It allows the offense to run short passing routes in obvious passing situations, rather than longer developing routes, and it also gives the offense the ability to choose if it wants to run for the first down as well. It really gives the defense more options with which to convert.
The second reason is a team-specific thing. The New York Giants are excellent at rushing the passer, but if they don’t get to the quarterback, they tend to give up boat loads of yardage in the passing game. There isn’t quite anything like running the football to negate an opponents pass rush. The Giants have Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul all rotating at the defensive end position, and they have good interior pass-rushers as well. It is huge for the Falcons to be able to present some type of rushing attack to keep the defensive line of New York on it’s heels, reacting to the run or pass rather than dictating their will upon the offense. It’s vitally important that the Falcons do something on the ground to prevent Pierre-Paul & Co. from teeing off on Matt Ryan & Co.
I don’t care which running back does it. I think Jacquizz Rodgers is much more versatile as he can run decently between the tackles in addition to good running to the outside and catching the ball. He could neutralize pass rush with screen passes, something that Michael Turner really can’t do. If Turner is the one getting carries and running for positive yardage, so be it. I won’t be upset one bit. But the one thing the Falcons can’t have is Turner constantly running for a loss or no-gain on first down. It’s a waste of a down, it puts Atlanta in long-yardage situations, and long yardage situations are a terrible situation for any team facing the New York Giants pass rush.