Rewind'10: NFC North tackle-breakers

June, 16, 2011
6/16/11
11:20
AM ET
Earlier this week, we reviewed the tackling proficiency (or lack thereof) of NFC North defenses last season using Football Outsiders' annual charting project. Now let's check out how Football Outsiders rated each NFC North offense's ability to break tackles.

As a reminder, broken tackles in this subjective analysis are defined thusly: "Either the ballcarrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ballcarrier jukes him out of his shoes. If the ballcarrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that didn't count as a broken tackle."

To me, the rankings listed in the chart make intuitive sense. The Minnesota Vikings have two of the NFL's best open-field runners at their positions, tailback Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin, and those two players largely accounted for the Vikings' No. 13 overall ranking. There are many talented running backs and receivers in the NFC North, but not many of them are known for breaking tackles.

Some notes and thoughts on players listed in the individual rankings:
  • Peterson ranked No. 8 in the NFL, and tops among NFC North players, with 35 broken tackles on 320 touches. His friendly rival, Tennessee Titans tailback Chris Johnson, broke 41 tackles on 360 touches.
  • The NFC North boasted two of the top three receivers in this category. Harvin led the NFL with 13 broken tackles on 89 touches, while the Detroit Lions' Nate Burleson broke 12 in 69 touches. Meanwhile, Chicago Bears receiver Earl Bennett broke a tackle at a higher rate than either Harvin or Burleson -- 18.9 percent, or nine broken tackles in 49 touches.
  • Bears tailback Matt Forte had one of the NFL's most productive seasons in 2010, but I think we can all agree that breaking tackles isn't among his strengths. He had 15 on 297 touches for a rate of 5.2 percent.
  • One mild surprise: Green Bay Packers tailback John Kuhn was credited with only four broken tackles among 99 touches. But in retrospect, many of Kuhn's runs are of the "fall-forward" rather than "run-through-people" variety.

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