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In pass-happy NFL, it still helps to run

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Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III runs away from Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware during the second half Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Landover, Md. (AP)

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 8:54 p.m.
 

As a wideout, Santana Moss wants Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to throw the ball as much as possible, of course, preferably in his direction.

As a football player hoping to advance in the playoffs, Moss wants the Redskins to do what they've done as well as anyone in the NFL this season: run, run, run.

“That's big to me. Everywhere I've played and been successful, we ran the ball to pass the ball. Nowadays, a lot of teams fling the ball everywhere, and you want to be a part of that as a receiver,” Moss said. “But when you really want to win games, you have to have both parts of your offense working, the air and the ground.”

They do, indeed, thanks in part to the man known as RG3, who set a rookie QB record by running for 815 yards, and to another rookie, Alfred Morris, who finished second in the league with 1,613 yards rushing. Washington averaged an NFL-high 169.3 yards on the ground, and its opponent in the first round of the NFC playoffs Sunday is the Seattle Seahawks, who ranked No. 3 at 161.2, led by Marshawn Lynch.

Clearly, as much as the NFL is a passing league, it still helps to be able to run the ball.

“It doesn't have to be great, but you have to have an effective running game to be able to be successful,” said two-time Super Bowl champion John Elway, now the Denver Broncos executive VP of football operations. “The reason I say that is because, if you get leads, you've got to be able to eat clock with it, and you've got to be able to keep people honest, especially pass-rushing teams.”

The top three rushers during the regular season are in the playoffs: Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Morris and Lynch. Other notable running backs playing this weekend include Arian Foster of the Houston Texans and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens.

The top three quarterbacks in yards passing, meanwhile, are done: Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Tony Romo of the Cowboys. Two of the top three in yards receiving also are finished: Calvin Johnson of the Lions and Brandon Marshall of the Bears.

In playoff games in the Super Bowl era, teams with a 100-yard rusher are a combined 157-37 (a winning percentage of .809), while teams with a 300-yard passer are 57-66 (only .463), according to STATS.

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