Sometimes, numbers are just numbers. The Miami Dolphins have a very good shot of ending the season with a 1,000-yard rusher, a 1,000-yard receiver, a 3,000-yard passer, someone with at least 15 sacks, and two players with 100 tackles apiece. It won’t be helping them reach the postseason.
So are these “heroes” ? The Dolphins are finishing the season with a visit to the Northeast, playing the New England Patriots. In their midst is a rookie quarterback with 3059 yard (Ryan Tannehill), a running back who is just 40 yards short of reaching that mark (Reggie Bush), a Wide Receiver with 1014 yards this season (Brian Hartline), Cameron Wake with his 15 sacks and when it comes to tackles, they might end up with three 100 tacklers when the season is over. Karlos Dansby has 121. Kevin Burnett has 99, Chris Clemons has 94.
Playoffs? No chance. The best Miami can do is finish at .500, which is pretty much their limit for a very long time. It’s pretty likely they complete all the requirements to become somewhat of a statistical standout, but if there’s one piece in this puzzle I’m willing to bet on missing out on his milestone, it’s Reggie Bush. Bush has run for less than 40 yards three times this season, and against the Pats excellent run defense, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get too many yards on the ground.
But, as we said, numbers are just numbers. There are teams very close to the this mark who are in the playoffs. Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals needs only two sacks for his team to get past the threshold. The San Francisco 49ers have played two quarterbacks at the starting position this season, so Alex Smith is stuck at 1,731 yards and Colin Kaepernick has 1,538 yards. They’ve got the rest of the achievements down.
While these numbers hint at some sort of balance and distribution, high tackling numbers don’t have anything to do with good defense. Probably the opposite in many cases. The Houston Texans have 3,500+ yard passer, a 1,300+ yard runner, a 1,400+ yard receiver, and a 20+ sack leader. That sounds even more impressive, but what’s the difference between two running backs combining for nearly 2000 yards on the ground in a season and one single back doing the job on his own? The ground game is still the same.
The NFL is a lot about numbers, but they don’t make or break your winning record and get you your playoff ticket. There are things that run a bit deeper under the surface, beyond the numbers, that determine how good a team really is.