Echoes of an Old NFL
Week 14 in the NFL was easily the most interesting week I can remember in recent history. Nine of the games were decided by one touchdown and it felt like a return to an older style of football. Hard fought divisional games were entertaining of course with an emphasis on the Miami Dolphins hook and ladder winning touchdown, and the emergence of a rising star in Sam Darnold’s 4th quarter comeback. Even with all these events the most notable thing was the importance of defense in Sunday nights marquee game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears.
For starters, this was an incredibly low scoring game with a final of 15-6 in favor of the Bears. With only one touchdown scored points were incredibly hard to come by as both defenses forced turnovers with a total of 7 interceptions. Additionally the Bears sacked Goff 3 times including a key 4th down in the closing minutes of the game. This year around the NFL we have been keen to high scoring performances. Just this week we saw Derrick Henry rush for 238 yards, and George Kittle lead the way for the 49ers with 7 catches, 210 yards and a touchdown in an upset win over the Denver Broncos. Amari Cooper lead the way in a tough divisional win with 217 yards and 3 TD's, and let’s also not forget 54-51 shoot out on Monday Night Football staring the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.
The new NFL is all about offense. The rules have been changed to make things easier on receivers to get open, Quarterbacks to stay upright, and teams to march and down the field. In the modern NFL “good defense” means creating boom or bust plays. Marcus Peters, a premiere NFL defensive back is best known for his ability to watch the Quarterback’s eyes and intercept the ball. This aggressive play style often leads to big play touchdowns, but you hope he makes one more play than he gives up. So what exactly is my point?
Despite this new era in the NFL, defense is still incredibly important. The top two seeds in the NFC are likely Super Bowl favorites in the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Yet in back to back weeks, we’ve seen both high flying offense get dominated in primetime football matchups and lose key conference games. It seems quite likely that one of these teams will face either the Cowboys or Bears again come playoff time. These feisty defensive squads have shown a blueprint to combating the new era of the NFL. Defensive pressure, and controlling the time of possession by running the football. It’s a strategy as old as the NFL itself that still rings true today. Plus add in a dash of innovative play calling (watch the lone touchdown from the SNF game) and the NFL of old is back in business on its way to the Super Bowl.