The old saying that “defense wins championships” stirs up images of Chicago Bears great Dick Butkus ripping off a running back’s helmet or New York Giant Hall of Fame player Lawrence Taylor dipping around the edge to blast a quarterback. The problem with the saying is that in today’s NFL, the quote does not have a lot of teeth.
The New York Giants won the Super Bowl in February with the 27th-ranked defense in yards per game allowed. The New England Patriots challenged the Giants in Indianapolis for the title and gave up 411 yards a game last season. The Green Bay Packers almost had a perfect season with the worst defense in 2011. The rules of the game strongly favor the offense, and that led to six quarterbacks throwing for over 4,600 yards last season.
With such an emphasis on the passing game and the wide open offenses, NFL defensive coordinators have tried to open up their playbooks as well. The two basic defensive schemes are the 4-3 and the 3-4 defenses.
The following list will break down each defensive scheme that team uses and the personnel that makes the defense work or, in some cases, not work.