Super Bowl 2021: Why Barry Sanders says teams can still win with run game

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Alex Shapiro
Updated ·3 min read
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Why Barry Sanders says run game still important in Super Bowl originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Super Bowl LV is nearly here. You’ve seen the headlines: Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. Tyreek Hill vs. Mike Evans. Rob Gronkowski vs. Travis Kelce… where’s the love for all the running backs? Is the day of the power rusher dead?

On Wednesday’s edition of “Countdown to Kickoff,” we caught up with one of the best to ever tote the rock, Barry Sanders. While he agrees running backs have stepped out of the spotlight recently, he believes they could make a comeback.

“This year, and even last year, running backs made a strong case that they’re here and they’re making a big impact on the results of the game,” Sanders said. “They’re important and valuable to the game. You look at what Derrick Henry did this year, and it’s remarkable.

“For a while there I do believe there was a bit of a de-emphasis on the running back position, but I think it’s starting to come back around… The headline is obviously what the quarterbacks are doing, what the dynamic quarterbacks are doing. But there are still some teams that are running the ball and having a lot of success.”

Gone are the days of 15+ rushers crossing the 1,000 yard threshold each and every season, but there are certainly still some dominant backs. While Henry was in a league of his own with his 2,027 yard season, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb and Aaron Jones had standout seasons too. Even rookies like Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson made huge impacts.

But there’s one thing all those backs have in common: they won’t be running in the Super Bowl. Having an incredible regular season is one thing, but can teams really lean on a run game to win the Big Game? Again, Sanders says yes.

“Look at last year’s Super Bowl,” Sanders said. Chiefs, Niners. The Niners were the second-leading team rushing in the NFL last year. I feel like they got away from the run in the Super Bowl.”

It’s true. If you don’t remember, the 49ers actually had a 20-10 lead going into the fourth quarter, due in large part to running effectively. In their first six drives of the game, they racked up 110 rushing yards on only 16 carries, good for 6.88 YPC. But on their final four drives of the game, they only ran the ball four times. While a couple of false starts put San Francisco behind the sticks, they still opted to put the ball in Garoppolo’s hands more often than not. If they had kept focusing on the run, maybe they could’ve wound down more clock. Instead they gave the Chiefs ample time to put up 21 points in the fourth quarter and win by double-digits. Making things even more interesting, the Chiefs— known for Mahomes and their explosive passing attack— ended up finishing the game with seven more rushes than the 49ers, 29 to 22.

“We can look at several examples in recent Super Bowls where the team probably should have ran the ball a little more,” Sanders said. “The Rams didn’t run the football with Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Actually the Patriots ran in the Super Bowl that game! They came out running the ball with Sony Michel. Michel finished the game with almost 20 carries, but it was a very low-scoring game and they controlled the clock. They ran right at the Rams defense in that game.

“So my point is, yes, I think you can still run the football and have success in the league.”

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Originally published
OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Kansas City
-167-3.5O 56.5
Tampa Bay
+140+3.5U 56.5