It’s a common phrase in football: “Good defense always beats good offense.” But how true is that statement?
Well, looking at the history of the sport, there is a lot of evidence in favor.
In the 51 Super Bowls played in football’s glorious history, there were eight occasions when the top scoring offense went up against the top scoring defense (top scoring defense is the team that has the least points scored on them per game – not the defense that scores the most).
Of these eight Super Bowls, the top scoring defense holds a 7-1 record. The only time the top scoring offense beat the top scoring defense in the Super Bowl was Super Bowl XXIV when the San Francisco 49ers (top offense) defeated the Denver Broncos (top defense) 55-10. And in defense of the Broncos, they were up against Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest quarterback and wide receiver duo of all time.
How does this translate to this season? Does good defense still beat good offense? After nine weeks, that isn’t necessarily true.
Two teams this season stand out as offensive powerhouses: The Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles. They are the top two scoring offenses in the NFL right now, and for good reason. Both teams scored over 50 points this past weekend, but no teams have stood out defensively.
The Eagles beat the Broncos, 51-23. The Broncos are currently second in the NFL in yards allowed per game, allowing only an average of 280 yards per game. The Eagles put up 419 yards against them on Sunday. The Eagles have also beaten the Carolina Panthers this season. The Panthers are the top defense in terms of yards per game.
This season has actually already treated fans to a matchup of the top scoring offense and defense. The Rams (top offense) faced the Jaguars (top defense) in Week 6. The Rams defeated the Jaguars, 27-17.
So, what has changed? Why is offense all of a sudden beating defense? The first reason is the emergence of the receiving running back.
It’s nothing new, but it’s the hot new playstyle that defenses have yet to figure out. Last year, of the top 25 leading receivers (in terms of receptions), there was only one running back. This year, in that same list, there are four running backs.
A Panther running back is actually third on that list. So, until NFL defenses can figure out receiving running backs, which they will, a good offense will beat good defense.
The other reason is that there aren’t any dominant defenses this year. There are good defenses, like Carolina, Denver, and Jacksonville. But none are complete and dominant. The 2015 Denver Broncos were dominant, as were the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens. But no one will look back on the 2017 NFL season and find a dominant defense.
But they will look back and remember the dominant offensive teams.
This isn’t a long-term shift in football. The saying won’t permanently change to “Good offense always beats good defense.” But for this season, at least, a good offense will beat good defense.
Columnist Brent Jansen can be found on Twitter @brentjans. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to [email protected] For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.