I happened to be perusing another word press blog (Insert plug here) when I stumbled upon a segment of an article concerning defense. It was titled Defense Is Dead.
You won’t hear me argue that the days of 7-3 games and defenses holding teams under 100 yards total offense are dead, but defense is alive and well, and championship teams still must have a defense. One only has to look towards last year. What was the pivotal play? Clay Mathews forced fumble.
Or look towards Arizona v Pittsburgh. There are two signature plays for that game. Jerome Harrison’s 90+ yard interception return and Santonio Holmes’ toe tapping touchdown catch.
Defense is still how you win, but it is much different from the Ravens of 2000 (the last great defense to win a championship). Let me explain.
If you recall the Bears – Colts Superbowl, you’ll remember the Bears vaunted defense and Devin Hester’s ability to win games via special teams. You should also remember that the Colts won their way to the Superbowl by beating the top three ranked defenses in points allowed (Baltimore, Chicago, and New England). This was the death of traditional defense. Teams were unable to fully shut down opponents. Baltimore was the closest forcing 5 field goals by the Colts but being unable to muster any offense themselves they fell to Manning and the Colts. Since then, offenses have reigned supreme and with good reason.
The NFL has long been advocating scoring. Scoring is what brings in the minor fans. The NFL Red Zone was designed for those fantasy football and casual fans to jump in and see the best plays across the board. Three yards and a cloud of dust is long gone. The NFL has supported every rule possible to encourage offense. Long ago, defensive backs would maul receivers at the line and harrass them down field as well. Today, touching a wideout will likely lead to a penalty. Rules like this have broken defensive dominance, but have created the devotion to football that most red blooded American’s have today. I, myself, am a defensive minded football fan, but I can even appreciate the wide open attack that has been created through rule changes.
But still defense reigns supreme. Corners have become the new linebackers. Pass rushers are like quarterbacks. If you can find a guy who can gather 15 sacks a year, he’s worshiped by his town.
Look to the Patriots this year. New England can score at will, but the games they lost were because they simply could not stop the opposing team. In order to win in the playoffs, one must have defense. And defense today translates to “the ability to make a play when it matters most.” If you’re team cannot force a 3 and out, or find a turnover, or a big sack when it has to have it, you’re dead. It’s the same as not having a quarterback. You can put up all the points you want, and you’ll win games doing it, but you will not be able to advance with a defense that cannot hold an opposition or force turnovers. Those are the big two conditions in today’s NFL. And that’s okay. Defense will adapt and evolve to the new game. Dick Lebeau’s firezone blitz scheme evolved to counter the west coast timing patterns. It is the natural state of football. Something is created, and after a few years something is created to stop it. Defense may never be the same as it was in the glory days of football, but we will see domination again. Domination in a 34-20 game.