Tampa Bay Buccaneers Won Super Bowl XXXVII With Running Game

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SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 26: Michael Pittman #32 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball against the Oakland Raiders during Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 48-21. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The outcome of this year’s Super Bowl could be determined by a quality running back from two teams that are littered with them.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Won Super Bowl XXXVII With Running Game

The New England Patriots have three viable options at running back in LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis and James White.

Blount had 299 rushing attempts with 1,161 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, which led the NFL. Blount’s role is to move the chains and punch the ball in the end zone as he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lewis has slowly returned to form after spending the first half of the season rehabbing from an ACL injury, but he has been inconsistent. White succeeded as the passing back with 60 catches and he could be the breakout player just like Shane Vereen was two years ago.

The Atlanta Falcons have two running backs who could be starters on many other teams in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

The Falcons have the more talented running backs in Freeman and Coleman. Freeman has the best chance to break the game open. He was one of five running backs this year to have over 220 carries with 227, over 1,000 rushing yards with 1,079 and over 50 catches with 54. The other three were LeSean McCoy (234, 1,267, 50), Le’Veon Bell (261, 1,268, 75), DeMarco Murray (293, 1,287, 53) and David Johnson (293, 1,239, 80).

Freeman can go beast mode between the tackles or catch 83 percent of his pass targets and he’s performed well in his two postseason games with one rushing touchdown and one touchdown catch. If the Patriots struggle to cover Julio Jones, Freeman could take advantage by catching passes and running the football. If Jones struggles, Freeman could force the Patriots to have to stop him and then Matt Ryan can hit the home run with Jones.

Coleman had 218 rushing attempts with eight rushing touchdowns and caught 31 passes with three touchdown catches this year. He has been a breakout star in the postseason with a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown. Coleman has made the Falcons’ offense unstoppable. Whereas they were once two deep with Jones and Sanu at receiver, they are now two deep with Freeman and Coleman at running back.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders played in a Super Bowl that went accordingly. The offenses featured elite wide receivers with Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell on the Buccaneers and Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter on the Raiders. They performed as expected but both team’s running backs had games to remember as well.

For the Buccaneers, Michael Pittman had a career game with 29 rushing attempts and 124 rushing yards and Mike Alstott had a rushing touchdown along with five catches for 43 yards.

Charlie Garner had just seven attempts and 10 rushing yards, but he had seven catches for 51 yards for the Raiders.

The quarterbacks went up against elite secondaries with John Lynch and Ronde Barber on the Buccaneers and Rod Woodson and Charles Woodson on the Raiders. The interceptions piled up as Brad Johnson threw one and Rich Gannon threw five.

The running backs for the Buccaneers and the Raiders, like the running backs for the Patriots and the Falcons, weren’t sexy names, but they were valuable because they took pressure off the receivers, got first downs and kept yardage manageable.

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