The NFL ever-evolves. One gameplan that’s crafted gets turned over only weeks later – and if the Rams and the Chiefs think they can outscore everyone en route to their Super Bowl success, then Wild Card weekend has proven that wrong.
Three-hundred yards personifies excellence. It’s seen as the landmark for quarterbacks to have a good game through the air.
On Wild Card weekend, the 400-yard games we’ve seen so often this year simply ceased to exist.
Only one quarterback threw for a 300-yard performance, and he’s packing his bags and going home.
Mitch Trubisky carved the Eagles secondary apart, but fell short.
And if you’re thinking that ground game was much better, only two running backs ran for over 40 yards – Zeke Elliott and Marlon Mack.
Whenever a new form of offence that seemingly can’t be stopped comes about, it’s countered by some of the best sporting brains on the planet.
Houston held Indianapolis to 21 points, but never even entered contention. Indy, in turn, put up just a single field goal.
The Chargers and Ravens was a war of attrition beyond the realms of entertainment value. Only Philip Rivers rushing for a first down was worthy of your attention.
Baltimore run the ball down your throat because of a threat that their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, can take off on the outside. It’s a variant of the read-option offence, except more potent.
Think Michael Vick turned up to eleven.
But the Chargers defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, concocted a gameplan to counter this, showing that defensive framework can be equally as effective as when the quarterback dissects basic coverages.
Linebackers aren’t quick enough and they’re the primary source of mismatches for offensive blueprints.
So, Bradley innovated and played seven defensive backs who are assured tacklers. So, without the pace angle on the offensive side of the ball, they become one-dimensional.
Jackson, through three quarters, had minus two yards passing. Defence is alive and well.
The Bears had the best defence in the league, and the Eagles front four is top tier. Both teams capitalised on having quarterbacks on rookie deals, therefore building defences worthy of winning championships – and now the playoffs are littered with them.
This doesn’t bode well for the Rams or Chiefs, both of whom capitalise on weak divisional opponents with sub-par defences.
They’ve got to alter their offensive strategy to get the better of stronger units. Except, most coaches adopt an ‘if it isn’t broken’ policy.
There will be rude awakenings aplenty en route to the top-seeded teams.
Kansas City give up 30 points at the drop of a hat and the Rams’ edge pressure isn’t enough to contain outside. Nor did any of their money go towards improving linebacking to a great degree.
They have countless mismatches that can be exposed and they won’t be used to this level of pressure in the postseason.
If you stop Aaron Donald, you stop the Rams. If you pressure Patrick Mahomes, you have a great chance of turning them over.
New England are an average outfit and the Saints have been exposed by Dallas in the regular season.
So, while the most famous units like the Legion of Boom have vanished, defences are still alive. And, unfortunately for the gunslingers of the NFL, the resurgence in defensive alterations are more advanced than ever.
The Super Bowl champions have already played this post-season – and that’s a truth that the most potent offences in the league are going to have to come to terms with.