The spread offense.
There are three quarterbacks I can personally define as "elite" with no argument: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are right on the border and I see Matthew Stafford as a borderline "elite"guy in years to come. Peyton Manning would be in this exclusive group, but the extent of his neck injury on the rest of his career is...
Best picture ever?
To give you an idea of how unstoppable these three quarterbacks, and their offenses, were, I will shoot a simple stat at you. Four teams in the NFL scored more than 406 points this season: Detroit (474), New England (513), New Orleans (547) and Green Bay (560). So the highest scoring team outscored the fifth-best scoring team by almost 10 (TEN) points per game.
Unfortunately for the top four scoring teams, their defenses were not up to par with their offenses. New Orleans was the 13th ranked defense, New England 15th, Green Bay 19th and Detroit 23rd. But despite their shoddy defense, these teams were able to outscore their opponents to win the majority of their games. The combined record of these top four scoring teams was 51-13 and all four made the playoffs. This record includes going 4-4 in games played in-between those four teams, so their record against the rest of the NFL was 47-9.
Meanwhile, there were only four teams which allowed fewer than 307 points this season: Houston (278), Baltimore (266), San Francisco (229) and Pittsburgh (227). However, these teams' offenses were a little better overall compared to their defenses. San Francisco and Houston tied for the 10th ranked offense, Baltimore 12th and Pittsburgh 22nd. Meanwhile these teams had a 47-17 combined record, 41-11 record not including games in-between those teams.
There were three games played between these elite offensive teams against the elite defensive teams. New Orleans defeated Houston 40-33 in Week 3, San Francisco beat Detroit 25-19 in Week 6 and Pittsburgh ousted New England 25-17 in Week 8. These results are a bit irrelevant, but just something to consider.
That's enough talking about defense because DEFENSE IS STUPID!
I JUST WANNA TALK ABOUT OFFENSE!
Okay, overwhelming majority of football fans, settle down...
So how does a team with a seemingly unstoppable offense ever lose a game? New England lost three games this season. One to the Bills where they turned the ball over four times and lost by three points. One to the Giants where they turned the ball over four times and lost by four points. One to the Steelers, who held a 39-21 advantage in time of possession and out gained the Pats 427-213.
Green Bay lost one game this season to Kansas City by a score of 19-14. The Chiefs held a 36-24 advantage in time of possession and out gained the Packers 438-315.
Discount Double Check(?)
New Orleans lost three games this season. One to the Packers where they were simply outscored, 42-34, and stopped at the goal line as time expired. One to the Bucs where they turned the ball over four times and lost by six points. One to the Rams, 31-21, in which I could find no glaring reason that they lost...
Man, the Rams suck.
As for the playoffs, Green Bay lost to the Giants by a score of 37-20 when the Packers turned the ball over four times. New Orleans lost to the 49ers 36-32; the Saints turned the ball over five times. New England is still going, having beaten the Broncos and the Ravens so far, setting up a matchup with the Giants to determine Super Bowl XLVI.
Woo! Only two more weeks!
What have we learned here today? In order to beat an elite offensive team, you need to accomplish at least one of these three things:
1. Force a lot of turnovers.
2. Win time of possession by a lot.
3. Out gain them in yardage by a lot.
But that is a lot easier said than done...
Even if you do execute one, or more, of these (#1 being the most effective), it is very difficult to blow out a team that can score. As you see, of the nine losses these teams suffered, only one was by more than 10 points. Because even if they make mistakes or have limited time of possession, the offense can really score at any time. In order to defeat a high-scoring team, it takes a nearly-perfect team effort.
Does defense still wins championships? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But it seems recently that the team who makes the most game-changing plays in a Super Bowl ends up winning:
The Steelers in 2006 with Willie Parker's long run and Antwaan Randle El's pass to Hines Ward.
The Colts in 2007 with Kelvin Hayden's interception return.
The Giants in 2008 with David Tyree's absurd catch.
The Steelers again in 2009 with James Harrison's interception return and Ben Roethlisberger's game-winning pass to Santonio Holmes.
The Saints in 2010 with Tracy Porter's interception return.
The Packers in 2011with Nick Collins' interception return.
I guess most of those are defensive plays, huh? Well, maybe the new saying should be: Defense wins championships... If that defense can score points.