You know how they say defence wins championship?
Well, fu*k that.
Sure, it’s important to stop stuff. Maybe more important than it is to score, at least more often. (You’re going to get stopped on a lot more drives than you score on, even if you win by 20, normally.) But take that Cardinals loss as proof that nobody advances in the NFL – not no darn one nobody – without putting points on the board and yards on the sheet.
The Cardinals were freakin’ brutal with the ball on Saturday, with a disgustingly low 78 total yards of offence as they somehow stayed in the game against the Carolina Panthers, eventually losing 27-16 even though they led 14-10 very briefly.
Now, you may take that as evidence the other way – that Arizona actually nearly won without doing anything with the ball. You may think, ‘Well, Carolina’s defence won the game, holding the Cards under 100 in the air or on the ground.’
Well, fine. Think what you want. But consider that Carolina didn’t really stuff Arizona so much as Arizona stuffed itself. Consider that Cam Newton – Carolina’s quarterback, their MVP and obviously most prized asset – threw for just 198 yards. Jonathan Stewart rumbled for 123 and the Cats’ leading receiver was depth running back Fozzy Whitaker, with just 39 yards and a score.
So Carolina didn’t put up many points either. Arizona’s defence, like Carolina’s, is incredible. It kept Arizona in the game, would have won it for them if they in fact somehow pulled the upset off. But even with that D rolling and mostly shutting down Newton and his Panthers, the Cardinals were nothing without their offence able to inflict anything even reflecting damage.
Arizona could stop Carolina all they wanted. The Panthers were just going to get the ball back in three plays. Arizona had just seven first downs – Carolina had 21, not including four from penalties.
In the playoffs, stars are largely neutralized. Peyton Manning could do nothing against the Seahawks in last year’s Super Bowl, just like Tom Brady and Randy Moss were neutered in ’08 against the New York Giants. In last year’s NFC Divisional round, the Seahawks held Drew Brees from even throwing a pass forward – the dude, a perennial MVP candidate and living video game, didn’t complete a pass for positive yards until the third quarter.
But Brees ended up throwing for 275 total yards in the game and two touchdowns. And the Saints hung in there, and made a game of it. Sure, they still lost, but they were closer throwing than they were defending.
In the playoffs, offence dries up. Always.
But that doesn’t make it irrelevant. In fact, it only makes it more imperative. Because a good offence puts you over the top, gets you the win when it’s unfashionable.
Doesn’t matter what sport it is, neither. Even Madison Bumgarner needs run support.
In the NFL, without the ability to give your world-class defence some rest and without the ability to cash in on those must-have redzone trips – like Tony Romo eventually did Sunday and won, while Matt Stafford certainly couldn’t and lost – and without the ability to scare the sh*t out of the other team’s offence, to make them feel like there’s no way they can’t get at least a field goal or else you’ll walk it back into their own endzone, you’re not going anywhere.
You may win a game or two, but you aren’t winning a Super Bowl.
The sort-of consensus great defence in NFL history, the 1986 Chicago Bears, won their championship by allowing just 123 yards to the New England Patriots. Defensive end Richard Dent won the game’s MVP. But Chicago also put up 46 points – they scored four rushing touchdowns, even without one from the great Walter Payton, and wide receiver Willie Gault caught four balls for 129 yards.
The Bears didn’t just have a great defence, they had a great team. That means the O and the D.
Even if your offence only strikes once or twice – like Joe Flacco did, in Saturday waiting until the second half to throw two touchdown passes, and like Andrew Luck did this morning, throwing the fatal strike to Donte Moncrief to give Indy an insurmountable late lead – all that matters is when it strikes, if it’s the right time at the right moment.
That’s why Dallas, Carolina, Indianapolis, and Baltimore are advancing.
That’s why the other four are the other four.