Super Bowl XLIV Marks a Shift in Longtime NFL Philosophy

Patrick HanlonContributor IJanuary 28, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 24:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass the ball against the New York Jets during the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 24, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Jets 30-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Despite six turnovers and one huge defensive play in the NFC Championship, there's no argument about Super Bowl XLIV: The game will be all about offense.

More to the point, it's going to be about passing offense.

Not only is it the first time since 1993 that both conference No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl, but this year also dispels the notion that you need a dominant defense to win a championship.

The Colts and Saints ranked 18th and 25th respectively in total yards allowed this season. In contrast, their opponents on Sunday, the Jets and Vikings, ranked first and sixth respectively in these categories. Clearly, these two high-powered offenses are proving that a great offense does indeed beat great defense.

Fans should have seen this trend coming following the 2006 season. In the AFC Championship that year, Bill Belichick and the Patriots watched a 21-6 halftime lead evaporate. Peyton Manning and his talented receiving corps torched the Pats defense.

In years past, it had been a physical Pats defense that disrupted Manning and the Colts, but the game had changed. The rules now favor offenses.

Belichick knew it too. After throwing to Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in 2006, Tom Brady saw a major makeover to his wide receivers. Enter Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte' Stallworth.

We all know what happened next. The Patriots crushed opponents in the regular season because of their new high-powered offense and came within a helmet and a hand of an undefeated season.

Want more proof? When you think running and defense in the NFL, most people go back to the (black and) gold standard—the Pittsburgh Steelers. We think Steel Curtain. Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. Surely the tradition continues in this era of Steeler football?

Not so much. This year, the defending champs chucked the rock all over the field. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 1,000 more yards this season (4,328) than he did last year, including four games where he attempted more than 40 passes.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing for the NFL. I just long for the days of power running and defense. When I think of football, I think big, mean, 300-lb. offensive and defensive linemen fighting for a few tough yards in the snow or the rain. The soundtrack is obviously straight out of NFL Films.

The more accurate depiction of today's game is track stars sprinting down the sidelines. The quarterback throws laser passes with pinpoint accuracy to them as teams light up the scoreboard in a dome stadium. The soundtrack is probably something like you'd find at a rave or Lady Gaga (these may not be mutually exclusive).

When the Colts play the Saints for the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 7, diehard and casual fans alike will be treated to an offensive onslaught by both teams. In doing so, they will have successfully created the blueprint for the rest of the league, as the other 30 NFL teams will look to reach the Arena Bowl next year.

Oops, I mean Super Bowl.