Flash back to the NFC Championship last January. Visualize San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree—before he became a "sorry receiver"—going deep into the right side of the end zone and Colin Kaepernick tossing a fade his way. You see the same result every time, right?
You see Richard Sherman tipping the ball into the hands of fellow defender Malcolm Smith, sending the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl—which they would ultimately win in a blowout of the Denver Broncos—and Sherman running over to taunt Crabtree on what just happened. We all do. We all see it over and over. It left an indelible image.
Now, remember your thoughts or even spoken words at that moment.
"(Gasp in silence.)"
It was likely one of those. Mine was more pragmatic, and it was uttered matter-of-factly in stone-faced shock:
"Why the heck do they test that guy there? Of all people to target. San Francisco, you deserve to lose."
The 49ers have to be regretting that decision.
This is a long-winded way to remind you NFL offensive coordinators are not as dumb as they look sometimes. They learn from history and vow to not repeat the same mistakes.
It is why, as we present a slideshow on the reigning defensive stat leaders, we predict none of them will repeat their success...at least to their 2013 statistical level.
Offensive coordinators don't worry as much about who they are attacking as much defensive coordinators fret about who they are defending, but that doesn't mean those offensive minds don't know enough to avoid those stat hogs all the same.
Heck, test someone other than Sherman. Block Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Defending sack champion Robert Mathis? Well, he was already dealt a blow to his 2014 sack hopes by a league-imposed suspension.
We recap the 2013 defense stat leaders—there are precious few numbers to ring up on that side of the ball in football—and break down why they all will not surpass last year's totals. We give you data, circumstances, quotes and reasoning. We also throw in a little extra: A shot in the dark prediction as to who will be similarly discounted on repeating their stats success in 2015.