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Defense proves crucial in NCAA, in NFL playoffs

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Defense proves crucial in NCAA, in NFL playoffs

Matt Williams

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Defense wins championships–at least so far in 2012. Consider what was eventually the national championship game, LSU vs. Alabama, back on November 5. The final score was 9-6 in favor of LSU…after overtime. Fast forward to January 9, and the game was won handily by Alabama 21-0.  The Crimson Tide proved that not only did they have the best defense in the country, but also that their defense made them the best team in the country. Not only was it the first shut-out in bowl history, it was done against the (then) “best” team in the country. Heck, the Tigers didn’t even cross mid-field until there was only eight minutes left in the game. Even then, they only managed 92 yards of total offense. Clearly, as the Southeastern Conference has shown us over the past six years, defense is king in college football.
But is defense king on the professional level? Can explosive offenses led by all-star quarterbacks such as the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers), the New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees), the New England Patriots (Tom Brady) be ousted from glory by teams with mediocre offenses but stellar defenses? As the play-offs have shown us recently, the answer is yes. When the final regular season game ended, Green Bay Packers ranked first in points scored per game, as well as third in both passing yards per game and total yards per game. Yet after resting Rodgers for a week and then having a bye week, the Giants of New York held them to 65 yards less passing and 15 less points than they were averaging throughout the regular season. When Green Bay has the worst defense in the league in terms of pass yards given up and total yards given up, the result was inevitable: defeat. Likewise the Saints, with their Dan Marino’s record-breaking stud of a quarterback Drew Brees, could not handle the San Francisco 49ers. Ranking second in points scoring per game, and first in passing yards and total yards per game, the Saints still managed to lose a shoot-out despite garnering over 470 total yards. It’s interesting to note that the potent dual-threat backs of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sprolles combined for 32 yards against a 49ers defense that ranks first in the league in rushing yards allowed.
There you have it, two high-powered offenses kicked out of the play-offs by two relentless defenses. I know I sound crazy, and I’m writing this in advance of the NFC/AFC championship games, but I think that defense will continue to be dominant this weekend. My predictions? The Patriots, ranking third in points scored, second in passing and total yards, will fall to the Ravens of Baltimore. Why? The Patriots’ defense is non-existent (31st in passing and total yards) and the Ravens’ is stifling (second in rush yards allowed, third in points allowed and total yards allowed, and fourth in passing yards allowed). What’s my take on the NFL? Well, just like in college, defense wins championships.

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Defense proves crucial in NCAA, in NFL playoffs