It was Bear Bryant who once said, “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”

It is a sports cliché we all grew up on. Except now it looks like a relic from another era like a pay phone or your old Blockbuster membership card.

On Sunday, defense will play a supporting role in the NFC and AFC Championship Games. The star will be the four offenses.

It is a fitting end to a 2018 season that saw an offensive explosion. Defense wins championships? Not this year.

The conference championships feature the four highest-scoring teams from the regular season for the first time in the Super Bowl era. The Chiefs (35.3 points per game), Rams (32.9), Saints (31.5) and Patriots (27.2) all lit up scoreboards this season like the Las Vegas strip. It was the fourth time in league history that three teams topped 30 points per game, joining 1948, 1949 and 2011.

All of that means Sunday’s matchups could wind up looking like a couple of Big 12 games. The total over/under for this weekend is 112, which is the highest in the last 20 years for championship weekend, according to VSIN.

The game features two legends at quarterback – Drew Brees and Tom Brady – one probable league MVP – Patrick Mahomes – and Jared Goff, an emerging franchise quarterback. The matchup has three of the best offensive head coaches in the league – Sean Payton, Sean McVay and Andy Reid – and Bill Belichick, who got his start on defense but has morphed into a head coach that does it all and just might be the greatest to ever wear a headset.

The two games are rematches of some of the highest-scoring games of the season. The Patriots and Chiefs fought their way through a Sunday night showdown that produced 83 total points and ended with a game-winning field goal. The Rams and Saints combined for 80 points in their regular-season meeting.

The dream scenario for those who truly love offense is a Rams-Chiefs Super Bowl, which would be a rematch of the 54-51 Rams win in November and a matchup of the two highest-scoring offenses.

The offensive explosion in the NFL has been developing for a while now. The rules have been tailored to favor the offense. If you breathe too heavy on a quarterback, it is a penalty. If a defensive back sneezes too close to a receiver, it is pass interference.

Offensive coaching has also gotten ahead of their defensive counterparts. The infusion of college concepts into the NFL. like spread offenses and run-pass options, have changed the game. Coaches are also relying on analytics more and that has resulted in them being more aggressive.

Defenses may eventually catch up like they did with the West Coast offense in the 1980s or the run-and-shoot offenses of the 1990s. But right now, it is all about the offense.

Last year’s Super Bowl was a preview of what was coming. The Eagles and Patriots combined for 74 points and 1,151 yards. Brady threw for 505 yards … and lost. There was only one punt in the entire game.

This year, teams have averaged 23.3 points per game overall in the NFL, the third-highest rate in league history. The 1,371 touchdowns scored in the NFL this season were the most in a single year. The 11,952 points scored were the second-most ever.

This also feels like a golden age for quarterbacks. Some great veterans are still playing at a high level like Brady, Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Some young ones have shown no fear and look primed to take over the league once those older quarterbacks step aside like Mahomes, Goff and possibly one or two of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round last year.

This shift to offense has been reflected in the recent head coaching hiring cycle when it felt like most teams were looking for the next McVay. Of the eight jobs available, six went to coaches with backgrounds on offense. Only the Broncos (Vic Fangio) and Dolphins (Brian Flores) bucked the trend. The Jets interviewed eight coaches for their head coaching opening and only one of them (Kris Richard) was a defensive coach.

At some point, defense will be back in vogue. But this Sunday, with these four teams, it will be all about the offenses … lots and lots of offense.

Sorry, Bear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *