This is a mid October 2012 piece from ADVANCEDNFLSTATS.COM
that could explain why we can have a great RB, but still struggle to look like a winning team......or, for that matter, consistently win against higher competition, without having a passing game that is not reliable beyond 10 yards.
Running to Create a 'Manageable' 3rd Down Is Self-Defeating
One of the common defenses of a run-heavy offense is that offenses need to make their third downs “manageable,” meaning short enough so that conversion is easier. The thinking goes that if an offense runs on either or both first and second down, it is relatively assured of shorter rather than longer distances on third down. At first look, this makes a lot of sense. After all, who wants to face third and long?
There are two problems with this argument. The first is that football is not a game of piling up first downs. The days of inching toward the goal line on 18-play drives are long gone if they ever existed at all. Football is, for the most part, a game of maximizing score differential, and the concept of Expected Points shows that NFL offenses are generally running too often on first and second down.
The second problem is that even if gaining a first down is the primary objective, running on first down is becoming a worse idea every year. The graph below shows that passing on first down leads to a conversion more often than running on first down. As usual, I limited the data to plays in ‘normal’ football situations, when the score is relatively close and time is not yet a factor at the end of either half.
Further graph analysis is available in the link posted above.