Top Rushers for 2014 NFL Playoff Teams

By Chris Malumphy

Even though its impact has been diminished in recent years, the running game remains important in the NFL. Just remind yourself of last year's Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks who continued their domination this season by relying upon a stellar defense, the relentless running of Marshawn Lynch, and the running, perhaps as much as the passing, of quarterback Russell Wilson. In Dallas, the splendid running of DeMarco Murray helped Tony Romo have his best season as a passer. Le'Veon Bell proved to be a key asset for the Steelers. Justin Forsett came out of nowhere in his seventh season to give the Ravens a balanced attack. Without Jeremy Hill, the Cincinnati Bengals would have needed to rely ever more heavily on the erratic Andy Dalton and Eddie Lacy provides Green Bay's opponents with something to worry about other than Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Even Peyton Manning became reliant on running back C.J. Anderson to help cover for an aging and tired arm.

Of the 12 playoff teams, six had running backs who topped 1,000 yards. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Le'Veon Bell, perhaps the most dynamic of the lot, may not see action due to injury. Bell not only gained 1,361 yards on the ground, but also caught 83 passes for another 854 yards.

Not all the playoff teams had top backs, however. In fact, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson totaled as many or more yards rushing than the top backs on five playoff teams: Broncos, Panthers, Bengals, Patriots, Cardinals. The Cardinals have an additonal achilles heal entering the playoffs to go along with the most woeful quarterback situation--a leading rusher, Andre Ellington, who gained only 660 yards. If the Cardinals put up any offense at all, Bruce Arians will deserve Coach of the Year accolades. Bill Belichick and the Patriots couldn't even put forth a running back to match the Cardinals top totals. Discounting the 266 yards LaGarrette Blount gained earlier in the season playing for the Steelers (which left him with 281 for New England), the top rusher on the Patriots squad was Jonas Gray with 412 yards.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the running game in today's NFL is that it provides balance and stops defenses from solely concentrating on thwarting the passing game. Passing greats like Dan Marino and John Elway (before Terrelle Davis), know the difficulty of going up against top defenses three or four games in a row with no running game support. Same holds true today.

Leading Rushers for 2014 NFL Playoff Teams
Team Name Rush Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Year Round Pick Player
CowboysDeMarco Murray39218454.713574167.3020113771
SteelersLe'Veon Bell29013614.788385410.33201321648
SeahawksMarshawn Lynch28013064.713373679.94200711212
RavensJustin Forsett23512665.48442636.002008726233
PackersEddie Lacy24611394.694242710.24201322961
BengalsJeremy Hill22211245.19272158.00201422355
LionsJoique Bell2238603.97343229.51        
BroncosC.J. Anderson1798494.78343249.52        
SeahawksRussell Wilson1188497.2611717.00201231275
PanthersJonathan Stewart1758094.63251817.21200811313
BengalsGiovani Bernard1686804.05433498.1220132537
CardinalsAndre Ellington2016603.33463958.622013619187
PatriotsLeGarrette Blount1255474.4510545.40        
PanthersCam Newton1035395.25         2011111
ColtsTrent Richardson1595193.33272298.502012133
BroncosRonnie Hillman1064344.13211396.6120123467
ColtsAhmad Bradshaw904254.72383007.962007740250
PatriotsJonas Gray894124.65177.00        
PatriotsShane Vereen963914.12524478.63201122456
RavensBernard Pierce933663.922136.50201232184
ColtsDaniel Herron783514.51211738.20        
CowboysJoseph Randle513436.734235.802013518151
PatriotsStevan Ridley943403.624205.0020113973
PackersJames Starks853333.92181407.80        
SeahawksRobert Turbin743104.201618611.622012411106
LionsReggie Bush762973.92402536.302006122
RavensLorenzo Taliaferro682924.34811414.302014438138
ColtsAndrew Luck642734.33         2012111
BroncosJuwan Thompson542725.034256.30        
PackersAaron Rodgers432696.32         200512424
CardinalsKerwynn Williams532464.602115.502013724230
PanthersDeAngelo Williams622193.505448.80200612727
CardinalsStepfan Taylor632083.3111797.23201357140
SeahawksChristine Michael341755.1011212.00201323062
BroncosMontee Ball551723.119626.90201322658
BengalsAndy Dalton601692.8411818.0120112335
PanthersFozzy Whittaker321454.5156012.01