The evolution of NFL and college football into an explosive offensive game propelled by high definition television and fantasy leagues, has had a ripple effect on defenses. Stopping these prolific offenses is harder than ever, attempts at pressure leaves gaps that are exploited more and more frequently. Defense has turned into a lost art, but perhaps Houston showed Miami the batted ball of the future.
In the NFL, points lead to ratings, particularly in the era of fantasy football. Rules have changed drastically in favor of offenses and as former Miami Herald Dolphin beat writer Jason Coles pointed out in a recent article on Yahoo, "the more realistic goal is trying to generate turnovers in hopes of getting the ball back and feeding their own offense."
Miami actually did a decent job of containing Houston's offense until Houston's defense gave them the advantage by creating turnovers. Forced back on a short field with only a few minutes rest, the Miami defense crumbled and the Texans seized the opportunity with scores. The Miami offense did little to help the defense, but the Dolphins are not a good example of the new wave.
More points were scored in the opening week of the 2012 NFL season than any prior opening week and the week's scoring was equaled only once in the entire history of the league. Scoring is cash in the NFL's coffers and the changes that brought the touchdown parade are here to stay. It means defenses will have to evolve but the evolution may come in the form of a new unusual mutation.
The fundamentals preached by coaches and fans can no longer stand up in the face of spread passing attacks. Form tackling and gap control are passé when a three step drop has the ball in the air before a twist or stunt has time to develop. Defenses have to change tactics and the idea is not based as much on forcing three-and-out as it is on causing turnovers.
Ryan Tannehill was intercepted on a three step drop where the CB "jumped the route..." The CB took a chance knowing he could have easily been a goat if the receiver had come back for the ball. Instead Houston's offense was back on the field. JJ Watt did not have enough time to get to Tannehill, instead of taking a circuitous route he used his long arms to time up the QB and cause... Turnovers!
When the game becomes a scoring contest, it is usually won by the team with more opportunities to score. Defenses will begin to take more chances, if Naanee steps up and blocks out the CB, Miami gets a big play. If Tannehill pumps and Watt is caught in the air, JJ gets pummeled. Instead of raising the coach's ire, these plays are examples of how to generate "offensive defense" in the new NFL.
Offensive defense... Interceptions, forced fumbles, batted balls resulting in interceptions, tackling the football and not the opposition in an attempt to dislodge the ball, risking the big play by premeditated undercutting of pass routes. When shutting down the offense is no longer a realistic option, defenses have to accept they will give up points in order to give their own offense more opportunities. Offensive defense...
For football traditionalists it is a sad day, but for a generation of fantasy leaguers it's the brave new world. The NFL is no longer a traditional league where the love of the game is more important than dollars and cents. This game is all about the money and scoring is king when it comes to ratings. The days of guts and glory are in the past, its replacement is now coming clear.
The type of player these defenses employ is evolving with the conceptual change. Smaller, faster linemen, quicker more versatile LBS, DBs with a knack for the ball, but overall, the tendency is toward speed everywhere. Tackling with the object of extricating the football, predetermined drops into passing lanes with disregard for maintaining gap control.
For students of the game, it's an interesting time... For fans reveling in the past, it will be a hard transition. For the Dolphins, perhaps this is a curve they could get ahead of if they recognize the signs of the future.
Offensive defense in Miami... There's an interesting concept!
What say you Shouters? Has Patrick lost it or is the future looking a little clearer?