Monday, February 03, 2014

Does Seahawks' Super Bowl Win Mean a Paradigm Change in the NFL?

Defense wins championships.

That adage certainly was on full display in yesterday's 43-8 Super Bowl victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball. The late great Vince Lombardi, and virtually every other coach on the planet, preach the simplicity of the game: block and tackle. Oh sure, there's a few other bits and pieces in there, too, but generally the team that blocks and tackles their opponent the best will be the victor. The NFL's number one defense -- Seattle -- beat the league's number one offense -- Denver -- like a rented mule in those key phases of the game.

Of course, another key phase is turnovers. The Broncos turned the ball over four times, six if you include the two fumbles they recovered for themselves; Seattle had no turnovers. At least 14 Seattle points (more?) came directly off of those Denver turnovers. Let's not forget the safety, as well, that opened the game. Special teams often seem to have a role in games such as this, as well. Percy Harvin's 87-yard kickoff return was basically the dagger 12 seconds into the third quarter, putting Seattle up 29-0.

Photo by Associated Press
Second-year QB (and former University of Wisconsin Badger) Russell Wilson was 18 of 25 passing, for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He outperformed veteran Peyton Manning by light years. (Congrats also to former Badgers S Chris Maragos and LB O'Brien Schofield, as well as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell; sympathies to Denver RB Montee Ball.)

What does it mean?
It seems with every Super Bowl, or at least ones where there is such blowout, the question arises: does this mean some kind of paradigm shift in the NFL? Has the type of offensive play shifted to young and versatile quarterbacks who can move out of the pocket and even scamper for 15 or 50 yards at a crack if needed? Has the defense shifted style to larger cornerbacks and faster and more mobile defenses in general?

Time will tell. Certainly in the NFC, we'd have to consider Seattle and San Francisco at the head of the game based upon the above criteria. When comparing the Packers, especially the defense, to what both the Niners and Seahawks bring to the field, the Pack comes up lacking, which we saw throughout the season. Injuries weren't the full story. Personnel was. As Troy Aikman (?) said during the telecast last night about Seattle GM John Schneider, when he was with the Packers he saw that the team tended to go with smaller cornerbacks and when he became head of the Seahawks operation he made a concerted decision to bring in larger corners. Seems to have paid off. Perhaps Packers GM Ted Thompson can take a few lessons from his former protege.

If the Packers are to compete with the likes of San Francisco and Seattle next season and beyond, a re-thinking about the defense has to take place. In last night's game, for example, how often did you see missed tackles by Seattle defenders? Rarely. How often did you see missed tackles by Packer defenders this past season? Often.

The quickness and toughness of the Seattle defense was at a level the Packers haven't displayed in recent years. Yes, I'd put up the Packers offense against any other team, no problem. But the defense? That's the Achilles Heel for the team right now. The Packers brain trust better do some major re-working of that defense in the off-season to be able to make it past the first round of the playoffs next season. It will not be easy. But it must -- and can -- be done.

Go Pack Go!!!