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Isn't this the way you win playoff games?

1/5/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Perhaps more than any other cliché, you can always count on NFL coaches and players telling you that running the ball and stopping the run is the key to winning playoff games.

That adage largely has proved true during this decade, especially when the run differential between two teams is substantial. In fact, according to Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 28 playoff games since the 2000 season where a team has outrushed its opponent by at least 81 yards. Those teams are 26-2.

One of the losses? You guessed it. Minnesota (148 rushing yards) outgained Philadelphia (67) by exactly 81 yards Sunday but lost, 26-14, at the Metrodome. The only other team to fall in that category was the 2006 San Diego Chargers, which dropped a 24-21 divisional playoff game to New England despite outrushing the Patriots, 148-51.

What does this oddity mean for the Vikings? You could point out that even a strong running team needs a functional passing game, which Minnesota did not have Sunday. But in this case, the Vikings hardly produced a consistent running game.

Tailback Adrian Peterson scored on a 40-yard carry, but managed a total of 43 yards on his other 19 rushes. Twelve of those remaining carries went for 2 or less yards. Backup Chester Taylor did not fare much better, gaining more than 7 yards on only three of his 12 carries.

A quantitative analysis of Peterson and Taylor's day, courtesy ESPN Stats & Information: