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Running backs will play a large role in the conference championship games

It's so easy to forget about running backs nowadays. This league is a quarterback-centric one. Passing numbers are up and running numbers are down. The emphasis has never swayed this far away from the run, and as a result, backs are forgotten. Only 13 of them hit the 1,000-yard mark during the 2013 NFL regular season, marking the first time this century we've had fewer than 15 hit that plateau. 

But three of those backs will be featured quite prominently on conference championship weekend, with Marshawn Lynch (sixth in the NFL with 1,257 yards) going up against Frank Gore ninth with 1,128) and with Knowshon Moreno (12th with 1,038) taking on LeGarrette Blount.

Blount didn't go for 1,000 yards this season because he started only seven games, but he's actually the hottest back among those four. He's put together a ridiculous 355 yards on 48 carries in his last two games, and he — not Tom Brady — was the centerpiece of the New England offense in last week's victory over the Colts. 

That Indy game marked only the second time in 12 years (22 games in total) in which Brady didn't throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game. Blount scored four of them and is now just the third back in NFL history to run for 350 yards and six touchdowns in a two-game stretch. 

He'll go up against Moreno, who has been hot and cold this year but in November ran for 224 yards on a ridiculous 37 carries against this very same New England defense. 

We all know Gore and Lynch. Gore went over 90 yards and scored in all three of San Francisco's playoff games last year and has averaged 4.9 yards per carry in seven career postseason games. He hasn't hit the 100-yard mark since Week 14, but that came in a victory over this same Seattle defense.

Lynch is the rockstar of the group. Beast Mode has gone over the 130-yard mark in three of the four postseason games in which he's played a prominent role, including a 140-yard performance against the Saints last week. With Russell Wilson struggling a tad, they'll be looking for him to step it up again in order for the Seahawks to get past their division rival. 

So yeah, the focus is still on the quarterbacks. Brady, Peyton Manning, Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are the true faces of their respective teams. But all four of these teams ranked in the top half of the league in rushing, with Seattle, San Francisco and New England all in the top nine, so look for the guys who do the dirty work to make a big impact on Sunday in Denver and Seattle.

It might be one last rare exhibition for a fading position.

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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