Can NFL/NBA Go Back To Thinking Defense Is Important?

Somebody once said about sports that you never hear crowds chanting for offense, but Defense…Defense is heard many times at the end of both NFL and NBA games.

We realize that this will make us sound like “get off my lawn” guy, but really haven’t things gotten out of control in favor of the offense in both professional football and the NBA?

Watching last weekend’s AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, we realized that these offensives are basically unstoppable and the only way to stop a top notch NFL quarterback is to force him to throw quickly by pressure.

The final score in the NFC was 44-21, while the AFC score was 36-17, a total of 118 points between the four teams.

Ten years ago, still in the era where virtually every rule is in favor of the passing game, the scores were very similar.  Indianapolis beat New England 38-34, although it was a battle of all time great quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, while in the NFC, Chicago (behind Rex Grossman?) beat the Saints, 39-14.

Twenty years ago, the Patriots beat the Jaguars 20-6, and the Packers beat the Panthers 30-13.  That’s a total of 69 points.

So, almost 50 more points were scored this weekend in conference championship games!  These are supposed to be the best of the best teams.

Thirty years ago, the NFC title game was a shutout, the Giants beat Washington 17-0.  It was the third consecutive whitewashing in the NFC.  Since then, there has been just one shutout in a conference title game, in 2000, when the Giants beat the Vikings 41-0.

It simply has gotten too easy to throw the football in the NFL.  Granted, we had four of the best QBs in the game playing last weekend, but the four combined for 68% completion percentage on 172 throws with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Do you realize that four of the all time leaders in passing yards are playing right now?  They are Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Add in Peyton Manning, who retired after last season, and that’s half of the top ten.

Two more passers, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer, are in the next five in terms of yardage.

In basketball, the NBA changed the rules a few years to encourage offense, as the games were beginning to have scores with both teams in the 80s, and it wasn’t an enjoyable game visually.

So, they basically said you can’t hand check the point guards.  So, now the sport, once dominated by George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neil, is controlled by point guards.

Currently, four of the top ten scorers in the NBA are point guards (Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, James Harden, and Damian Lillard), and two more (Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving) rank 11th and tied for 12th.

Quite frankly, these guys are too quick to guard out of the floor, and with the ability to “carry” the ball, when the opposing team needs a stop, they put it in the hands of one of these guys and they deliver.

To that point, the four guys in the scoring top ten are also in the top ten in terms of free throws attempted, as is Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has the ball in his hands a lot at crunch time.

FYI, twelve players take more free throws than LeBron James.  Take that for what it is worth.

We aren’t suggesting going back to the way things were 20-30 years ago, but perhaps the rules restricting defense can be relaxed in both sports, especially in the NFL where the quality of play has declined in recent years.

It used to be said that defense wins championships.  Right now, that can be crossed off the sports cliché lists.

MW

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