On the one yardline: Pass or Run?

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (#...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ball is at the opponents’ one yard line. Does  the offensive coordinator call for a straight-ahead running play; power-football at it’s best? Or does the team have some sort of play-action pass they think will surprise the defense? How about a fade route to a tall wide receiver? How does that offensive team navigate that last yard for a touchdown? What’s the call?

With the focus on taller receivers, athletic tight ends and play-action, the calls at the one yard line have certainly changed in the NFL in the last several years. For example: In 2000, there were 311 plays at the one yard line. More than seventy-seven percent of those calls were for a running play; just under 23 percent were a passing play. This season (through Week #14) there have been 307 plays at the one yard line. Sixty-seven percent were a running play, while 33 percent were a passing play. The passing play at the one yard line has definitely become more of an option in today’s NFL.

Obviously teams do not want to be too predictable when they are faced with pounding the ball into the end zone at the one yard line. Let’s put some numbers to this. Again, looking at stats from this season through Week #14, there have been 307 plays from the one yard line. Only one team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, has run more pass plays from the one yard line than running plays. The Bucs have been on the one yard line five times this season… three times they attempted a pass, twice they ran the ball.

Here’s a look at what percentage of plays from the one yard line have been running plays for each team this season. Also noted is how many plays each team has run from the one yard line.

Tampa Bay: 40% (five plays)

Denver: 50% (22 plays)
Cleveland: 50% (12 plays)
New York Jets: 50% (two plays)
New England 54.5% (21 plays)
Baltimore: 56.3% (16 plays)
Pittsburgh: 57.1% (14 plays)
St. Louis: 57.1% (seven plays)

Detroit: 60% (15 plays)
Tennessee: 60% (10 plays)
San Diego: 62.5% (16 plays)
Houston: 66.7% (nine plays)
Washington: 66.7% (nine plays)
Jacksonville: 66.7% (six plays)

Seattle: 70% (10 plays)
Oakland: 71.4% (14 plays)
Atlanta: 71.4% (seven plays)
Carolina: 71.4% (seven plays)
Green Bay: 71.4% (seven plays)
Buffalo: 72.2% (11 plays)
Miami: 75% (eight plays)
Arizona: 75% (four plays)
Chicago: 78.6% (14 plays)

Dallas: 80% (five plays)
Indianapolis: 80% (five plays)
Cincinnati: 83.3% (six plays)
Philadelphia: 83.3% (six plays)
San Francisco: 83.3% (six plays)
Kansas City: 88.9% (nine plays)

New York Giants: 90% (10 plays)

Minnesota: 100% (three plays)

Of the 307 plays from the one yard line in 2013, 153 (49.8 percent) went for a touchdown. In 2012, that percentage was 56.2. This season, teams scored a TD on 55.1% of the running plays from the one yard line, while they scored on only 42.2 of the passing plays from the one yard line. In the 2012 regular season, teams that attempted a running play from the one yard line scored 58% of the time compared to 50% of passing plays that went for a TD from the one yard line.

Speaking of TDs from the one yard line, four running backs have scored four TDs each from the one yard line on running plays this year. They are: Frank Gore (San Francisco), Jamaal Charles (Kansas City, Eddie Lacy (Green Bay) and Knowshon Moreno (Denver). Four different players have scored two TDs each on passing plays from the one yard line in 2013: Joseph Fauria (Detroit), Dallas Clark (Baltimore), Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay) and Greg Olsen (Carolina).

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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