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Sack from the Past: The Return of Defense to the NFL

Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears sacks Tony Romo in a victory of the Dallas Cowboys.
Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears sacks Tony Romo in a victory of the Dallas Cowboys.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Paul ThelenContributor IIOctober 5, 2012

Over the last couple of years, the narrative of the NFL has been driven by the league's propensity for throwing the football. Much has been written about the importance of possessing a "franchise quarterback", and how no team since the 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback. I lack both the ammunition and the ignorance to argue how important a quarterback is to winning. However, this season a defensive trend has developed. 

It grabbed my attention originally in the NFC West. We all knew about the prowess of the San Francisco defense, but the other three? Based on points per game, Seattle, and Arizona rank 2nd and 3rd respectively with the 49ers holding down 4th place. So I decided to expand the statistics for the rest of the league.

Based on yards allowed per game, the 10 worst defenses in the NFL this season have a combined record of 12-28, which equates to a 0.3 winning percentage. It may be to no one's surprise that teams with bad defenses are only winning thirty percent of their games. Until you compare it to last season.

Based on the same statistics, last year's 10 worst defenses were 86-74 collectively. That equates to a 0.538 winning percentage—which is a winning record. Moreover, of these 10, five were playoff teams, including both of the Super Bowl contestants (New York Giants and New England Patriots).

It's no longer enough to have a dominant offense in the NFL. Just ask the Saints, who despite having the 8th ranked offense, are a woeful 0-4. Their defense ranks 29th.

On the flip-side, we've seen teams with average to below average offenses have success so far this season. The improved Minnesota Vikings have the 19th ranked offense in 2012, yet, with a 7th ranked defense, they've enjoyed a 3-1 start. The Bears (3-1) offense is 24th, 49ers (3-1) rank 17th and Texans (4-0) rank 14th offensively.


Just look at quarterback records. Aaron Rodgers, the Mannings, Roethlisberger, Brady, Matt Stafford and Drew Brees; all elite quarterbacks that have a combined record of 10-17.

Conversely, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Kevin Kolb, Alex Smith, Christian Ponder, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford are 22-7.

What does this all mean? It means that defense has returned. 


All statistics in this article derive from


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