ANALYSIS

Can Defense Still Win Championships?

DALLAS, Texas – If you’re a defensive coach/player, or just a fan of Old School, Hard-Nosed Football, more than likely this season has been extremely painful for you to watch. But if you enjoy things like points and yards – this particular football season, at the college and pro level has been a blast for you.

There are no perfect NFL teams this season. Everything has seemed to be one-sided. Heading into Week 14, it’s apparent that no team is ranked in the top eight in both offense and defense DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) which calculates a team’s success based on down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.

The right – or wrong – matchups have produced unexpected results, which plays a major role in several teams reversing this idea that you do not need a successful defense to win championships.

One of the primary topics of this previous offseason was that offenses were more openly borrowing concepts from college offenses. And it’s true. In 2018, NFL offenses have become college offenses, which has given off the impression that there is no need to put all of your energy and efforts into developing a championship defense. I mean, who cares if you gave up 51 points — if you scored 54 to win that’s all that matters, right?

 

MNF FLASH BACK

The sensational Monday Night Football game on Nov. 19 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the L.A Rams was arguably the foundation to this way of thinking. Collectively from both teams, there was a total of 1001 yards given up in that game which also combined for the most points scored on MNF. There was a total of 14 touchdowns given and we might as well have been watching 7-on-7. Minus the fact that the Chiefs are still without Eric Berry which compromises them defensively I have no clue why the Rams are this pathetic defensively.

With a strong front seven and a decent secondary there is absolutely no reason why they should be ranked in the bottom half of the league defensively. Is it because they’ve decided to ride on the coat tails of their explosive offense?

 

The Big 12 All Together

Even if you watched a small sample size of the Big 12 football this season, you witnessed how poorly their defenses are – particularly Oklahoma’s defense. After giving up 48 points to Texas in their first matchup and being completely embarrassed, Oklahoma fired their then Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. Logically, one would assume your defense would improve after that move – wrong. Oklahoma went on to give up 46 to Texas Tech, 47 to Oklahoma State, 40 to Kansas and 56 to West Virginia.

Out of 130 FBS programs, Oklahoma is ranked 96thin opponents PPG, which is extremely awful. I understand firing the Defensive Coordinator but after this season’s defensive performance, one can argue that instead of it being a lack of coaching – maybe it was a lack of talent and recruiting. But, just like the Rams and the Chiefs, it doesn’t matter how many points you give up – the rule of the game is out score your opponent, right?

 

Reversed Concept

That way of thinking may have worked for the first half of this year’s NFL, but there are several teams that not only have reversed that way of thinking but can and will be a huge threat to these same high-powered explosive offenses that we speak of.

 

Dallas Cowboys

We all witnessed the incredible defensive performance displayed on Thursday Night Football against super bowl favorite New Orleans Saints. We’re talking about a top five team in total points – surely they weren’t supposed to have problems winning that game. Not if you’re going up against to top five defense that can score points as well. Dallas held the Saints scoreless for the first quarter, which hadn’t been done all season. They didn’t score their first and only points until the end of the second quarter, giving them 10 to Dallas’s already 13.

This was a pivotal game for the Cowboys because their game plan worked to perfection. What’s the best concept to take away an opponent’s weapon? Don’t allow them to use it. It’s the oldest, simplest trick in the book. Dallas controlled the clock and didn’t allow New Orleans’ explosive offensive weapons to get into a groove. Just look at the time of possession. Cowboys 36:53 to the Saints 23:07. Dallas is ranked 1stin time of possession with a top five defense. Those are dangerous combinations heading into the post-season.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Similar to the Cowboys, the Ravens haven’t done anything offensively this year that’s going to blow your socks off. However, their defense deserves a completely different conversation. It’s because of their defense that they are still in the running for a Wild Card game in the AFC behind the L.A Chargers.

The Baltimore Ravens gave us our first peek at how a team like the Saints can be beat. Even though they lost that game, one can argue that because they kept the Saints under 30 points, it gave them a fighting chance. The ONLY difference is the time of possession battle. You can’t give Drew Brees 30+ minutes of offense and expect to win that game.

 

Chicago Bears

Chicago had their coming out party on Sunday Night against the explosive L.A Rams, holding them to just six points for the entire game. More importantly, the Bears harassed Jared Goff and squashed their explosive offensive.

This is the NFL’s best record we are talking about. Goff threw a career-high four intercepts and was sacked three times, with Eddie Goldman getting to him for a tiebreaking safety early in the third quarter. Who’s leading the way for Chicago? Mack and Smith. Let’s keep in mind that they weren’t the game’s leading tacklers. But their defensive presence is more than enough to cause disruption and confusion for offenses. Leading the NFC North with a 9-4 record, the Bears are reminding everyone that their defensive dominance has kept them relevant.

If you’re an NFC team you have to ask yourselves – even with an explosive offense, are you truly confident in going up against any one of these three teams in the post-season? If the answer is yes, then here is something we must keep in mind. Once we get late into the season, heading into the post-season teams have to be able to run the ball. We’ve been glorified with the way teams have been able to air it out so far this season, but if you know anything about football you understand that as the weather changes around this time of the year, throwing the football is not merely as effective – therefore you must present a strong running game to compromise this disadvantage. With that being said – Baltimore, Chicago and Dallas are ranked top five in rushing yards allowed per game.

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