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Best offensive play:
Moving those chains

Nov 18, 2003 3:22 AM

While the NFL is full of eye-catching moments, most people’s internal highlight films are populated with spectacular big gain plays. The reality is teams that can consistently move the ball a little bit at a time are often the hardest to stop.

Teams that rely on the big play can suddenly look ordinary when forced to go the length of the football field. Ever since seeing John Elway lead his Broncos to victory with "The Drive," we’ve been impressed by teams that can start deep in their own end and still wind up scoring a touchdown.

Field position edge can be a big factor, overriding the moving of the chains. Come playoff time though, it seems like every team at some point faces a key moment when a sustained drive is needed to win.

Yet somehow a statistic measuring "long drive" ability has never quite caught on with the mainstream public. It is however something we track.

The first thing to ask though is whether long drive stats have any real value in pointing out the very best teams. If you define a long drive as one where a team needs to go 70+ yards to reach the end zone, then the league leaders have been the teams contending for the Super Bowl trophy.

Last season, the top offensive long drive team was the Oakland Raiders. The top defensive team was Tampa Bay. When the Patriots won the title the year before, they were the No. 1 ranked AFC team, and the Rams were likewise the No. 1 NFC team. It’s been rare when a team that made noise in the playoffs wasn’t strong in this category.

This season through 10 weeks, Kansas City rates just 10th in the league in terms of points per drive from deep in their own end. The Chiefs would be bucking a trend if they win it all without improving in this department.

The underachieving Bucs rate sixth in offense, fifth in defense, and first in net difference between the two. The Tennessee Titans are the top rated AFC team in combined offense/defense long drive performance so far.

Quarterbacks of course get a great deal of the credit for long drive touchdowns in pressure situations. The top five long drivers are Culpepper, McNair, Favre, Manning, and Hasselbeck. Not a bad bunch!

Note: The charts include TD (touchdowns), FG (field goals) Pnt (punts) and TO (turnovers).


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