The NFL doesn’t “want defense and the running video game, ” John Madden tells UNITED STATES TODAY Sports. “They want it to be high scoring, fast paced, throw the ball. ”
Sounds nearly the same as the American Football League shootouts of the late 1960s, when Madden was a coach, or like points-piling video games, something Madden the impresario knows more than a little bit about.
The Detroit Lions phoned up 623 yards against the Based in dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the most yards gained in Lions history as well as the most given up in Cowboys history. The Denver Broncos are averaging 42. 9 points a game and nine teams are on pace to attain 25 or more, which would tie for many in NFL history.
It is to the point now that defenses are suffering identity crises. As Washington defensive end Stephen Bowen describes: “How do you play top-notch defense when there are so many restrictions against us? It doesn’t allow us to be yourself. ”
Recent guidelines changes emphasizing safety, and restricted enforcement of older rules that boost the passing game, are among the top reasons defenses are on their pumps. Here is what they can’t do anymore: Strike too high, or too low. Bump receivers more than 5 yards downfield. Perform defense.
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OK, just kidding on that last one, but some days it can feel that way.
“That’s how it is, ” Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall says. “Since I actually came into the league, it’s kind of evolved into what it is now, that is player safety and score plenty of points. ”
Crimes are averaging 349 yards and 20 first downs a game, both most when extrapolated to a full season. They are averaging 23 factors, tops in the modern era. And they are doing this while averaging 107 rushing yards, third fewest in history, at the same time they’re racking up 242 passing yards a game, most by 12 yards, or one midrange slant design.
“I can only picture the pressure and difficulty upon defensive players to really play freely and loose, ” says Jeff Garcia, who played quarterback for the dozen NFL seasons. Especially for defensive backs, they’re constantly thinking about exactly where they’re going to hit a player. Obviously, it requires away some of the speed you play with, your quickness to reaction if you have to think like that. ”
New England Patriots defensive finish Rob Ninkovich says restrictions against helmet-to-helmet hits and hits with the crown of the helmet are more manageable for defensive linemen, except when getting pushed or blocked into the quarterback. It is far more difficult, he admits that, for defensive backs and linebackers.
“Moving target, that’s the hardest part, ” Ninkovich says. “With a quarterback, it’s kind of different because they are in a stationary spot. You can kind of plan for it. Such as, ‘Hey, I’ve got a couple mere seconds here. In a split-second, I can kind of move my head. ‘ But when you’re sprinting that way and the other man is sprinting the other way as well as the ball is coming, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘I’m going to opt for the midsection. ‘ I feel enjoy it kind of takes away a little of the hostility there. ”
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Many defenders are just like old dogs trying to learn new tricks. Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who else entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 1998, tries to change his tackling techniques.
“You don’t want to get a problem, or get fined, ” he admits that. “That definitely comes to mind when you’re out there, trying to make a play. It’s like, ‘Do I allow this guy in order to catch the ball? ‘ Or even ‘How can I defend the pass, but still do it within the rules from the game? ‘ … You’ve got a large amount of guys coming at you using a lot of speed. The decisions you need to make, there’s just not a lot of time. ”
Washington safety Brandon Meriweather, who sat out Weekend on a suspension for repeated higher hits, makes a similar point however in far more inflammatory fashion.
“To be honest, you just have got to go low now, ” this individual told news reporters Monday.
“You got to end householder’s careers. You got to tear up people’s ACLs and mess up householder’s knees. You can’t hit them higher anymore, you just got to go reduced. ”
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GIVING SUPPORTERS WHAT THEY WANT
Claire & Garfunkel famously sang “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? ” That was 1968, during the heyday from the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” and Minnesota Vikings’ “Purple People Predators. ” Now some fans replicate a football version of Mrs. Robinson’s baseball lament: Where have you gone, Deacon Jones?
Chuck “Tat Man” Solomon recieve more than 100 tattoos honoring his beloved Philadelphia Eagles, and he pines for the days when rock-’em, sock-’em defenses tattooed backs and receivers.
“If you want to go back to the late ’80s, ’90s when (the Eagles) had Jerome Brownish and Clyde Simmons and Reggie White, no, that kind of defense will never be back again, ” Solomon says. “I love a hard-hitting defense. I think defense is the video game. If you don’t have a good defense, you don’t have a great team. ”
Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who played cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys within the era Solomon remembers so lovingly, has watched the game evolve in support of passing offenses. He’s OK with that. He figures the NFL is only giving its fans what they want.
“The competition committee does a great job of tweaking the rules to make this a popular game, ” Horton says. “It’s exciting due to the points scored and the big performs.
“The rules are skewed toward the offense. What I mean by that, I believe (most) each defensive penalty is an automatic very first down. So it makes it hard because you’re giving the offense extra downs. ”
Crimes are getting 1 . 9 first downs on penalties per game at the halfway mark, up one-tenth given that last season. Offenses are operating 65. 3 offensive plays a casino game, the most since 1987’s 66. two, and more plays mean more factors.
One reason performs are up is so many groups employ hurry-up offenses.
“They get you with this up-tempo where you can’t substitute and more defensive men have to stay on the field longer, ” Madden says. “And the crimes can really put you in a situation. ”
Horton says defenses are responding with one-word defensive play calls among additional tactics.
“We practice for the no-huddle, ” he says. “We make the adjustments. And you find a way to deal with what they’re doing. ”
What they are doing is passing, passing and more passing.
“It’s a fantastic ballet in cleats, ” Horton says, “because all those guys on offense, Megatron (Calvin Johnson), A. J. Green, Lewis Fitzgerald, they’re so big and fast and athletic. ”
Is it frustrating to coach defense in an era of offense? Horton says no .
“I like the mind games, ” he admits that. “The biggest thing is: How do you keep those guys under twenty one points? That’s the biggest frustration, the largest angst. … How do you stop the particular touchdowns and make them field objectives? You know they’re going to move the ball. ”
GUARD ALL PLAYERS
Defensive players say they’re many for player safety, just not on one side of the ball.
“If we’re going to protect guys, we have to protect every single guy on the industry, not just receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks, ” Hall says. “If it’s about protecting football gamers, we need to protect everybody. We get hit just as hard as a large amount of other guys out there, but we all don’t get any flags for it. We all just get up and continue to attempt to play, or sit out along with concussions. ”
Ninkovich wants the cut block removed from the game.
“I don’t believe the rules protect defensive players, ” he says. “Guys get cut (blocked), guys get cracked. You get fingers to the face every play. ”
New York Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason cites his buddy, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, who suffered season-ending injuries upon low blocks this season and last.
“Both of his injuries have come from direct intent to cut (block) a player, ” Beason said. “There is an opportunity for the particular league to go ahead and state, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re trying to protect all players. Let’s take this out from the game. ‘ Because, at the end of the day, seem what’s happening. It could end your season, like it did for him. ”
Hall says he doesn’t think about the possibility of penalties or fines when making a split-second hit: “Ultimately, if I make a perform and I’m going to be suspended, I’ll be suspended. If I don’t make the perform, I’m going to get ran out (of the particular league) and not have a job. ”
How are defenses modifying to the challenge of modern rules made to thwart them?
“Slowly, I guess, ” Horton says, chuckling. “But we’re finding ways. ”
They are. Defenses can still decide games, even when they give up lots of points. Indianapolis beat the particular Denver Broncos a week ago, and even though the particular Colts gave up 33 points, their D won the day by often pressuring the quarterback.
“Notice how quickly quarterbacks have to get rid of the ball now, ” Madden says. “Watching that video game last (week) with Peyton Manning against the Colts, he still got his touchdowns. But , man, all those were tough touchdowns. (Colts defensive end) Robert Mathis and those two defensive tackles were pressing. Plus they kept Peyton from getting comfortable. He was never comfortable during that game. ”
After which there is: Defenses are not just enabling all those points — 23. two points a game to date, tied along with 1948 for the all-time NFL report — they’re scoring more of them, too. They’ve scored 50 defensive touchdowns so far, on pace just for 108, far ahead of 97 last season and 80 the season prior to.
“If you’re going to be considered a defensive player in this league, ” New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty says, “you can’t waste materials your time complaining. You’ve got to find a way. ”
If that means strolling a fine line between a thoroughly clean hit and a high one, Minnesota Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford says that is what defenses have to do. “At the end of the day, ” he says, “we’ve got to continue to keep playing on defense and just make plays when they come your way. ”
Madden, in his TV days, often lent his own personal sound effects to big strikes. Boom.
“I only need the feeling that defenses are starting in order to catch up, ” Madden says. “You may still get points, however it looks like to me that those points are getting to be tougher. ”
Horton certainly hopes so.
“As long as you can still go hit guys, there will be football, ” he says. “We’ve had to modify how we hit guys, but we can still hit them. ”
Bell reported through Ashburn, Va., and Foxborough, Mass., and Corbett from Ashburn.
Contributing: Gary Mihoces in Philadelphia and Mary Pelissero in Eden Prairie, Minn.