There’s the old adage: “Defense wins Championships.” Lately, one would beg to differ – especially those deep into NFL stats. Like it or not, the game has been changing.
Power running is still a part of game day; it’s just not a priority as much anymore. There’s another change: teams do use the run to hold onto the ball and gain time of possession, but it’s not what seemingly gets teams into the playoffs as of late.
Looking at stats from the last three years, the top ten overall rushing and passing offenses were viewed and compared to those of the teams that made the playoffs. Of the top ten rushing offenses, 43% of those moved on to the playoffs. Of the top ten passing offenses, a little over 63% advanced to the post-season. Out of all three years, the Lombardi winners all had top five passing attacks and little to no run game in the regular season.
Defense still matters somewhat in the regular season. The overall defenses of playoff-bound teams from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 (16-game regular season) were top ten almost 57%. Once it came time for the Super Bowl, only 33% were top ten. 2010 was the only year that both teams (Green Bay and Pittsburgh) had top ten defenses. 2009 and 2011 were where the anomaly comes in. Neither team in the big game had impressive defensive statistics (2009: New Orleans and Indianapolis; 2011: New England and New York).
This isn’t to say that defenses don’t step up and change once in the playoffs, it simply is fact that offenses -mainly the pass- is surpassing the run and pass defense in what was once the epitome of football.
Here’s where the evolution of the New York Football Giants has come to today. It’s no longer the smashmouth, slobber-knocker-type of gridiron play it was when Coach Bill Parcells came in and made other teams fear the run and, of course, the defense. The game has sped up and become more finesse. The battle is still in the trenches, but involves more than strength down there. It’s now also a battle of intellect more than ever. Defensive players are faster and have more skill technique up front, so the approach from the team trying to move the ball and score had to become one that relies heavily on the quarterback and trust.
It was easy years ago to ground and pound. The offensive line would shove opposing defenses back and pave the way for bruising running backs while adding in a second, faster scat-back that could “cut” on the defense once more men were pushed up to the line. Stacking more bodies up to that line of scrimmage is what drove offensive coordinators to realize that run first wasn’t going to work as well anymore. Run and shoot is more predominant now. Spreading out 11 players is harder to defend and where most playoff-caliber teams have been headed, including the New York Giants.
Acquiring Eli Manning and bringing in Tom Coughlin set this Giants change in motion. Coughlin promoting QB Coach Kevin Gilbride and getting rid of then offensive coordinator John Hufnagel was the last piece needed to solidify what was to become this current high-powered offensive mold. The team was slowly built around Manning: protecting him, giving him a solid run game and eventually -here’s the big part- giving him young receivers to grow with him. Today, he leads the huge, powerful air force that has brought glory back to the Meadowlands.
Yeah, it’s not the Giants of decades ago, but last look at the calendar, its 2012 and Big Blue are World Champions. Again.
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