Our Proposed NFL Changes To Aid NFL Defenses

Green Bay Packers sacking Carson Palmer. An event we are not seeing enough of in today’s NFL.

What a completely goofy NFL season we just watched.  We knew that teams were going to be thrown off after the lockout but the fallout was greater than we thought.  We knew folks were going to have record offensive seasons, but what we saw was beyond our original thoughts. Dan Marino’s all time passing record of 5,084 yards being bested by nearly 400?? Where only twice in history we saw individual 5,000 yard passers give way to a season where we had three?? The NFL saw it’s first ever season in 2011 where multiple quarterbacks threw for more than 40 touchdowns in the same season. Seriously??

After an NFL season where the league cracked down on helmet to helmet hits on the field, we saw records for passing yards from multiple teams. When you look up and see a Matthew Stafford become the third quarterback in the same season to throw for over 5,000 yards, yo u know something is definitely wrong. Not only was it Stafford’s first complete season as a starting quarterback, he was outgunned in the season finale by Packers 2nd string quarterback, Matt Flynn. In that game, all Flynn did was shatter Packers passing records for yardage (480) and touchdowns (6) in his only start this year while the Packers rested Aaron Rodgers. This in microcosm was the NFL this season, high flying offense playing against pensive defenses scared to attack quarterbacks and receivers. It’s at this point, we claim the rules have been altered too much to aid the offense and something must be done. Yet where do we begin.

Sports Illustrated cover featuring the Amazing Orange Crush’s Rubin Carter once the Broncos went to 6-0 in 1977.

Well we have to take you back to 1978 to understand how we got here. The NFL adopted several rules to open up offenses that had been shut down during the mid 1970s. Most of these were in effect to legislate the Pittsburgh Steelers out of dominance. In 1976 the Steelers had a string where they gave up only 28 points over their last 9 games and shut out 5 of their last 8 opponents. This was followed up in 1977 when the Denver Broncos, on their way to Super Bowl XII, only gave up 148 points and 18 touchdowns. So something had to be done.

Well in 1974 the NFL widened the hashmarks and thought that would bring about more open space for the offense to move. Also wide receivers were not allowed to be chopped “hit below the waist” at the line of scrimmage. These changes weren’t enough. So in 1978 the rules were amended to where defenses were only allowed to “chuck” receivers within the first five yards of the scrimmage line. This is known as the Mel Blount rule. Offensive linemen were allowed to extend their arms while pass blocking to stop hard charging linemen.  Then about a decade later the league deemed that not enough and employed the cheat step. You’ll see tackles with their outside leg pivoted 2 to 3 yards back in the backfield to get a head start on blocking an opponents speed rusher. Couple this with “in the grasp” and any touching of the helmet of a quarterback culminating in a fifteen yard penalty and defensive players are playing on egg shells…

So what gets repealed?? Wide receivers getting hit all over the field if the ball isn’t in the air?? Well there are those that like to see a good bomb thrown in a football game so we won’t go there. Yet what we will do is return play at or near the line of scrimmage to it’s roots.

Article I Roughing the Passer – This will be called when the defensive player takes more than one step to hit the quarterback or if a hand extended to knock down a pass is swung to make contact with the quarterbacks helmet only. No more bogus 15 yard penalties to keep drives alive when a defender’s hand grazes a quarterbacks head. While reaching up to knock down a pass, it’s inevitable a defenders hand will hit a quarterbacks helmet. Only call it if the defender blatantly slams forward hitting the helmet. That’s why a quarterback wears one…for head protection.

Article II Repealing the offensive tackles cheat step to aid against speed rushers. Defensive players should be able to rush the quarterback better which should cause a few more errant throws and quarterback sacks. Enough with watching a Drew Brees throwing a football 62 times as he did in yesterday’s playoff loss to the 49ers with few hands in his face. Furthermore this would force offenses to employ smaller and quicker tackles. In light of the health issues and the mortality rate of 300 lbs. linemen after their playing days, this could be a move in the right direction.

Article II a. Repealing the rule that if a defensive linemen moves, which forces the offensive lineman to flinch, then penalizing the defender. This was another dumb rule that came along within the last 15 years. Nope…sorry. Return offensive linemen to having to play football and allow defenders the chance to rattle a young lineman or an injured one. Defensive players should be able to manipulate line play as much as the offense.

Article III Allow receivers to be hit within the first ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Enough of watching basketball players in shoulder pads, a helmet and nothing else, running unencumbered down the green fields of the NFL. Defenders should be allowed to have a cornerback “chuck” him and then a linebacker be able  to do so afterward to throw off the offensive play. Make receivers play football again.

The last change is a subtle referendum on pass interference. Re-emphasize the incidental contact rule made famous after the Benny Barnes /Lynn Swann Super Bowl XIII tripping moment. If there isn’t blatant pass interference where the defender disrupts the receivers attempt to catch the football, don’t throw the flag!! Far too many cheap 50 yard penalties because some primadona receiver flails his arms calling for one. Half the time, you’ll see receivers throwing their hands up instead of just trying to catch the football and this cheapens the game. It makes defenders gun shy in playing their position when the ball is in the air, and this is football, some contact will be made.

This is where the competition committee has given way to the corporate nature of the NFL’s non football playing brass. Everything isn’t about offense, offense, offense. Football fanatics remember reverently the ’85 Chicago Bears whom many feel were the best in history because of the 46 Defense. Steeler nation is right behind them having gained fans from the ‘Steel Curtain’ days and the current ‘Blitzburgh’ edition. Same thing with the Doomsday Defense in Dallas, and the 2000 Ravens. Teams where great defense was as beautiful to watch as tons of offense. This isn’t roller derby or basketball on grass. Lets return football to it’s fundamental roots that we all recognize.

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Wild Card Week: Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints

Don’t you just love this time of year?? The chase is over for most NFL teams while the elite are gearing up for the real race to Super Bowl XLVI. Tonight’s game between the Detroit Lions and the NFC South champion Saints is shaping up to be a dandy. The league has celebrated Drew Brees and his record breaking 5,476 yards passing this season, yet no one is hailing Matthew Stafford for his 5,038 yard season. http://www.nfl.com/stats/player In his first full season as a starter, Stafford completed 63.5% of his passes for the aforementioned yardage, 41TDs to only 16 interceptions. Do you realize that in the last 3 games he’s thrown for 1,284 yards 12 TDs and only 2 interceptions?? One of those was a desperation heave at the tail end of the 44-41 season finale against the Green Bay Packers. The bottom line is he’s improved as this season has concluded and comes into this contest red hot.

He is throwing to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who had a tremendous season, finished with a 244 yard receiving performance in the finale against the Packers. That performance propelled Megatron ot overtake Wes Welker for the league lead in receiving yards with 1,681. What has been impressive with these two has been the fearlessness shown in the 4th quarter. The 98 yard drive on the road in Oakland in week 16 featured a 45 yard bomb to Johnson with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Even the finale against the Packers, Stafford threw for his 5th touchdown and what was thought to be the game winner, with less than 2 minutes to go in that one.

Standing in their way on the Bayou are the Saints, just one year removed from being Super Bowl champions. Drew Brees and the Saints have come down the stretch on fire. They are in the midst of an 8 game winning streak and scored over 40 in their last 3 contests. Yikes!! Something has to give. One major loss is the fact the Saints have to go into the playoffs without Mark Ingram. In a single game scenario Darren Sproles can fill the void but can he carry the load through the playoffs. At least Pierre Thomas is still there and is one of the best running backs on screen passes in case they can’t run effectively.

Both teams come in deficient on the defensive side of the ball ranking 23rd (Lions) and 24th (Saints) respectively. However there is a huge discrepancy between the two when it comes to forcing turnovers. The Saints have only forced an anemic 16 turnovers for the season where the Lions have forced 34. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/2011.htm How will the Saints respond if they find themselves in a tight contest after cruising for the past 6 weeks?? What happens if Drew Brees gets off to a slow start or if the Lions force a few turnovers early?? Can the Saint defense do anything to turn the game around if this happens?? By the way Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter have to deal with Megatron… Can they??

To win the Lions have to force a few early turnovers and get ahead of the Saints. The Lions learned to win on the road early this year with the twin twelve point comebacks in Minnesota and Dallas in the 4th quarter. Even the last week of the season we witnessed valor in their 44-41 loss to the Packers. Stafford threw for 520 yards and came within 22 yards of the all time record set by Norm Van Brocklin in the early 50’s. In the playoffs you win with stars and the Lions have several in Stafford, Megatron, and Ndamukong Suh. To win the Saints need Will Smith, Roman Harper, and Jonathon Vilma to have spectacular games. In this one, the Lions are ripe for the upset. We just don’t believe in the Saints defense.

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Wild Card Week: Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

Welcome to the post season and here are two Cinderella stories meeting during NFL Wild Card week. Who would have thought that after losing Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, Marvin Lewis would have his Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs?? Very few… Now they have the chance to win a playoff game which is something they didn’t accomplish with Palmer or Chad. He comes in with a growing rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and the NFL’s #7 defense. They were a top ten defense all season and finished with 45 sacks on the year and will face either T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme.

Now neither quarterback is a world beater at this time however Yates led the Texans to a 20-19 victory over the Bengals just four weeks ago. Yet they haven’t won a game since. The  Texans have to lean on their defense which comes in ranked #2 and has given up the fourth fewest touchdowns this season with 31. Having Andre Johnson is a huge step in advancing to the divisional round. This team is a little beat up and going into the playoffs with a second or third string quarterback doesn’t bode well. We’re just not sure about Jake Delhomme at this point when facing a formidable pass rush.

You have to remember that Bengal’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is from TCU and should have some fans at this game. He will want to have a good showing. In his first year replacing Carson Palmer, the former Horned Frog threw for 3,398 yards and 20TDs. A strong showing overshadowed by the success of Cam Newton in Carolina. With 1,067 yards rushing this season from Cedric Benson, the Bengals are built to win this playoff game. Houston does have Arian Foster (1,224 yards rushing) to counter that but this is the first foray into the NFL playoffs for this team and many of their players.

The Texans would be better suited to win this game had Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were completely healthy but in this one…we’re taking the Cincinnati Bengals. You don’t go into the playoffs on a 3 game LOSING streak and expect to wake up in the playoffs. The only time we can remember that happening was in 1986 when the Jets lost their last 5 then beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the wildcard game. Yet they had to switch from Ken O’Brien to Pat Ryan at quarterback to achieve this…. Anyway this should be a game for the Bengals defense to get some respect today.

Ahhh…Yes The NFL Playoffs

This is the most wonderful time of they year!! Spare me that Christmas talk…lol We were taught old lessons and had some performances remind us that the league is ever evolving and new stars will emerge.

How many of us really had Matt Hasselbeck outperforming Drew Brees and leading the  Seahawks to an upset win?  I didn’t for sure.  I thought the negative talk of reseeding the playoffs or the legitimacy of their being there would galvanize them, but not pull off an upset.  Like many of the scrappy teams that refused to go quietly in playoffs past, the Seahawks were on a respirator when Marshawn Lynch took us on that electrifying run.  Qwest Field was quiet as a tomb when that play first developed.  The Seahawks momentum had crested, the Saints had just roared downfield for a touchdown to narrow the lead to 34-30.  Mike Williams and the Seahawk receivers had dropped passes to short circuit two previous drives and a hushed nervousness hit the Pacific Northwest.  Can you say tenuous grasp?  Enter Marshawn Lynch…

Simply put, Lynch’s jaunt was the greatest postseason run in NFL History. It had significance, determination, and came at the most critical point of the game. It mirrored the Garrison Hearst 96 yd overtime run to lift the 49ers over the Jets in the 1998 season opener with 7 broken tackles. Yet Marshawn’s was in the playoffs.  Now John Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII (as ESPN showed) did give the Redskins the lead in the 4th quarter, but Riggo only broke 1 tackle.  On top of that, go back and view the footage; Riggins broke the tackle of Don McNeal, who was a cornerback he outweighed by some 40 lbs.  Furthermore Don McNeal couldn’t grab him because he had a cast over a broken wrist.  That run may be the spark to propel the Seahawks on a spirited run through these playoffs.  Food for thought; Weren’t we laughing at another NFC West Champion a few years ago? We woke up with 3 minutes left to go in the Super Bowl and Arizona had just taken the lead.  Remember that??  Yet we’ll have to wait and see…

As for the Jets and the Colts?  We knew this is who the Jets had retooled to beat and they won.  Peyton Manning needs more options.  I had said all along that their pedestrian receiving corp would come back to haunt them and they did.  Eventually those receivers would see better corner back play and teams were clamping down on them starting in last year’s playoffs.  The Jets came back with one more corner in Antonio Cromartie.  Who would have thought that his biggest contribution would be from forced kick return duty.  Lets face it, had that been a kick return to the 20, Sanchez would have had to complete 4-5 passes when there was already less than a minute to play.  With the way he’d been off with his passes up to that point???  Ehhhh… luckily he only had to complete a few.

From Ladanian Tomlinson’s 2nd half rebirth, to the offensive line taking control of the game, and Sanchez finding his rhythm late. What did they win? Respect? Yes they did achieve that avenging their championship loss to the Colts.  Their reward?? An all expenses paid trip to the worst battle for first place ass whoopin’s of all time. The 45-3 loss to New England.  However these are the playoffs where strange things can happen.  For the Jets to win there they need to do two things.  Burn the video from when they played New England and watch the game where Green Bay nearly beat them. They each run the same 3-4 defense and the players will hear enough from the media about the last trip.  Good luck with that Rex…

Which brings us to day two…and I’m already out of breath. So that will be another entry later today…

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