In the NFL, the old adage of “defense wins championships” remains true. Now, everyone understands that offense remains an integral part of success. However, in order to hoist the Lombardi, teams must make key stops in big moments. Remember, for all of their prolific stats, the ’99 Rams needed one tackle to secure the title. In the end, championship defenses must rise to the occasion to make deep runs in the playoffs.
The Sons of Dick LeBeau continue to thrive in the Steel City. The Pittsburgh Steelers, statistically employ one of the league’s best defenses. How? First, they hit the quarterback at an alarming rate. To this point, the Steelers sacked the quarterback thirty-eight times, while knocking them down 99. Tough to generate a passing game when you have defenders taking free shots at the quarterback. More importantly, Pittsburgh capitalizes on the pressure with turnovers. As a result, fifteen picks and six fumbles will make any offense pause. Now, everyone expects TJ Watt and Bud Dupree to post stats, and they do. Yet, look deeper. Stephon Tuitt, Vince Williams, and CB Mike Sutton combine for thirteen sacks. Yes, a corner enters the game with three sacks. The zone blitz remains a vital and destructive part of the game. If any AFC team dethrones the Chiefs, Pittsburgh possesses the best chance.
Emerald City Problem
While the Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a prolific offense behind Russell Wilson, the defense could be their ultimate undoing. With the days of glory long expired, Seattle must win shootouts to survive in today’s NFL. The pass rush looks like Carlos Dunlap and a cast of blitzing safeties and linebackers. Unlike Pittsburgh, Seattle doesn’t have the secondary help to compensate. In fact, their corners allowed ten touchdowns. Additionally, none of the top four corners can boast a completion percentage below 64.8% Seattle to win, must solely rely on Russell Wilson to win games.
Don’t Look Now
When the Colts signed Phillip Rivers in the offseason, all eyes set upon the future Hall of Famer. Yet, the real story continues to be the play of the Indy defense. To this point, they’ve only allowed two touchdown passes of 25 yards or more. Actually, there were each twenty-five yards. First, to Marvin Jones. Then to Robert Tonyan. The Colts thrive on generating pressure with the front four. In fact, only the Chargers blitz less. Under those circumstances, the burden rests upfront. Autry, Buckner, Lewis, and Houston attack the backfield with the faith in the back seven to hold up their end. Xavier Rhodes, to the surprise of many, flourishes in Matt Eberflus’ defense. The former Vikings’ CB cut his completion percentage down by 34 points. Startling numbers for a guy that languished during his last year in Minnesota.
Winter is Coming
While teams continue to pile up the gaudy numbers, those paid to stop them loom large. The NFL makes its money on high-powered offenses, and they should. Yet, when the weather turns and you need that road win on the tundra or Heinz Field, the defense must stand up and prepare themselves to deliver a victory.