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San Francisco 49ers Prove That Defense Can Still Win Championships

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a touchdown in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter of the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJanuary 14, 2012

There's an old adage that says "Offense wins games; defense wins championships." However, after this season, that adage has come into question. After all, all the top offenses are in the playoffs: the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers are among the teams that have given up the most total yards in the season, but their records are 13-3, 13-3 and 15-1.

Three quarterbacks surpassed the 5,000-yard mark in the regular season, and Eli Manning was just 63 yards away from making it four. Drew Brees completed 71.2 percent of his passes, and Aaron Rodgers had a season rating of over 122.

Things like that usually don't happen, much less all of them in one season. The NFL has officially become an offensive league.

At the beginning of the season, everyone was on the Patriots' case for having no defense, myself included. Without a defense, they'll never make it deep in the playoffs. They now sit with the No. 1 seed in the AFC and have home-field advantage for the entirety of the playoffs.

There's a reason everyone picked the Saints over the San Francisco 49ers, even though it's technically an upset. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady can drop a ton of points on anyone, and they do. Have a great defense? Doesn't matter. They'll score on you anyway, and if you can't keep up offensively, you'll lose.

At least, that's what we thought.

Now, as of my writing this, the game isn't over. The 49ers are up 17-14 over the Saints, but the Saints could definitely still win the game. For me, that doesn't matter. I'm sold that the old adage still holds true.

I expected this to be a high-scoring game right from the get-go. Drew Brees would march down the field in spite of San Francisco's great defense, and Alex Smith would have to try to keep up. If anything, the San Francisco defense would just be trying to slow Drew Brees down enough for them to keep up.

So far, that isn't what happened. Aldon Smith has constantly pressured Brees, and he's thrown two interceptions. Two. In one game.

The 49ers already had forced two fumbles and nearly had a third. One came right at the goal line and prevented a score. All of this in a half.

We've yet to see what the second half holds; it may hold a loss for the 49ers, but even if it does, I don't care. The 49ers don't have to win their playoff game to prove that a primarily defensive team can still win in the postseason. As far as I'm concerned, they've proven it already.

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