As fans, we've witnessed incredibly efficient offensive teams winning recent Super Bowls—last year's Packers, the Saints, the Colts and even the Steelers, known more for defense, beat the Cardinals with a historic offensive drive. The days of the 2000 Ravens and 2002 Bucs are long gone. What's going on?
In the 2003 season AFC Championship Game, the Patriots pounded the Colts and their stable of speedy receivers into oblivion. Tony Dungy and Robert Irsay complained emphatically to the league that the Patriots were allowed too much freedom with the five-yard chuck rule. The following season began with the league announcing a "point of emphasis" on the rule. No longer would the Patriots be able to test a referee's knowledge of exactly how far five yards is.
Manning broke Marino's touchdown record that year and the Colts increased their average points per game from 27.9 to 32.6. The Patriots themselves increased their scoring from 21.8 points per game to 27.3 in 2004.
It's much harder for a defense to pitch a shutout than an offense to rack up 40 points in today's NFL. It's almost as if Bill is saying, "Fine, change the rules, emphasis however you want, handcuff our defense—we'll just put up points until we break the scoreboard.'
The past few seasons have brought fans and players a plethora of unnecessary roughness, illegal hits below the knees and helmet-to-helmet penalties and fines. The league is so fearful of career-ending—or even worse, life-debilitating—injuries that it has gone off the deep end in emphasizing player safety in an inherently violent game.
Offenses this season are taking full advantage of the increased restrictions on their counterparts, and you can bet a coach like Bill Belichick took note of the future impact the new emphasis on safety would have on hampering defenses. More defensive penalties equates to better field position and more scoring opportunities for offenses that they otherwise wouldn't have had.