It has been debated for at least 30 years that defenses win games and ultimately championships. C’mon, let’s face it, the Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s won four Super Bowls because of the Steel Curtain. Trust me, Franco Harris, Lyn Swann, and Terry Bradshaw couldn’t possibly have won that many games without “Mean Joe” Greene and Jack Lambert stopping Tony Dorsett every once in a while, right? Shoot! What about the 11 interceptions by Mel Blount in 1975? Listen. If your defense is continuously getting the ball back for your offense to have a chance to score, then it stands to reason that you will very likely win more contests. If the opposing team’s quarterback isn’t even on the field, it’s a good day – unless you’re on that team.
If the running game is in perfect form, it sets up the play-action passing game, subsequently adding a mark in the win column. So, to me, it seems as though it is imperative to stuff the run, thereby shutting down the opposing team’s offense – at least in theory.
This year doesn’t seems to be any different, and the San Diego Chargers’ record demonstrates the point exactly! They are leading, statistically, in many categories this season. However, they’re in jeopardy of not making the playoffs. Their defensive squad is currently ranked third against the run, second-best in passing yards allowed, and their offense is ranked first in passing yards, but their 6-5 record turning into the home stretch seems to only be good enough for them to go to the playoffs if they buy a ticket!
When the defense stops the run, it can force the offense to turn to the pass, and that can lead to costly turnovers, as it did in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. If it hadn’t been for the defense intercepting Payton Manning four times, returning two for scores, the Chargers might have been 5-6 after the game. Can they keep it up? Can Rivers and the Chargers pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat again this year?
Can the other defensive powerhouses survive the season? Let’s take a deeper look into the National Football League’s other teams with the best-run defenses and see if their defensive strengths will be enough to carry them deep into the post-season.
Ranked second against the run and only allowing 80.5 yards per game (ypg) is Chicago. Luckily for the Bears, their defense is so effective against the run, or the results from Sunday’s game with the Eagles would have turned into the Michael Vick show, Part II. The Bears’ defensive squad is anchored by defensive end Julius Peppers (six sacks, one INT) with strong support from an outstanding corps of linebackers, led by Brian Urlacher (77 tackles, three fumble recoveries and one INT) and Lance Briggs (two INTs and a fumble recovery) . Cornerback Chris Tillman has been a major factor as well with three INTs and 58 tackles. Opposing offensive lines are so preoccupied with blocking Peppers that it lets someone else get a chance to fill a gap, sack the QB and pad some stats. Now that the (8-3-0) offense is starting to click, it’s possible for the Bears to hold on to the NFC North division lead and make it to the post-season.
Pittsburgh owns the NFL’s stingiest run defense, allowing just 64 ypg! Dick LeBeau has the defense containing the run better than any other team in the League at this point of the season. James Harrison continues to disrupt offensive game plans for every opponent they’ve faced. He leads the team with 10 sacks, and I predict the Ohio native will finish the season with at least a dozen. In addition to Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer have the defensive recognition of the ’70s, but they do have Farrior, Woodley, Timmons, and Troy “The Hair” Polamalu. Pittsburgh’s linebackers alone have 333 combined tackles and five INTs. The Steelers have three of their last five games of the 2010 season at Heinz Field.
The home season finale is against the disappointing Carolina Panthers, whose rushing offense, ranked 22nd, is averaging just over 101 ypg. It should be a virtual stat-fest. Sure wish I had Pittsburgh’s defense on one of my fantasy teams…maybe someone in one of my leagues will accidentally drop them from their team and I can scoop ’em up! Hey! A guy can dream, right?