We live in the Golden Age of the Ground Game. The 2011 and 2012 seasons were the best in NFL history for running backs, who for the first time ever averaged more than 4.25 yards per attempt on the ground.
We reported on this phenomenon this week.
The Golden Age of the Ground Game has been defined by some of the greatest rushing attacks in NFL history.
Forty-two teams in NFL history have averaged 5.0 YPA or more on the ground over the course of an entire season. Four of them played in 2012: the Vikings, Bill, Redskins and 49ers. It was the first season in history in which four teams averaged 5.0 YPA or more on the ground.
The 2012 Vikings are No. 7 all time, with an average of 5.42 YPA.
In terms of individuals, Kansas City Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles has averaged 5.79 YPA in his five-year career, which puts him on pace to shatter the nearly 50-year-old record for career average set by the great Jim Brown (5.22 YPA).
You'll notice one thing, however, about this list: running the ball well, even historically well, is by no means a ticket to success. Of the 42 teams that averaged 5.0 YPA or more, only four won championships, and two of those were in the AFL. Many of the greatest rushing teams in history were downright bad. Note, for example, the 2011 Panthers or 2011 Vikings.
The NFL was, is and always will be a league dominated by teams that rule the skies, not the ground.
THE 5.0 CLUB: 42 TEAMS THAT AVERAGED 5.0 YPA RUSHING
|3||1963 Chargers (AFL)||11-3 (won AFL Title)||395||2201||5.572|
|4||1997 Lions||9-7 (lost WC)||447||2464||5.512|
|10||1958 Browns||9-3 (lost div. playoff)||475||2526||5.318|
|12||1984 Rams||10-6 (lost WC)||541||2864||5.294|
|17||1951 Rams||8-4 (won NFL title)||426||2210||5.188|
|18||1998 49ers||12-4 (lost div. playoff)||491||2544||5.181|
|23||1994 Lions||9-7 (lost WC)||406||2080||5.123|
|25||2004 Falcons||11-5 (lost NFC title)||524||2672||5.099|
|27||1966 Chiefs (AFL)||11-2-1 (lost SB)||448||2274||5.076|
|28||1972 Steelers||11-3 (lost AFC title)||497||2520||5.070|
|33||2003 Packers||10-6 (lost. div. playoff)||507||2558||5.045|
|39||1962 Texans (AFL)||11-3 (won AFL title)||479||2407||5.025|
|40||1934 Bears||13-0 (lost NFL title)||567||2847||5.021|