So now the National Football League has contestants for Superbowl 50, taking place in Santa Clara, California on September 7th. The Denver Broncos will take on the Carolina Panthers in the battle of great defenses and contrasting styles on offense. The AFC and NFC Championship Games were total opposites as Denver scored early and held on to win 20-18, using a punishing pass rush against the New England Patriots while Carolina absolutely dominated the Arizona Cardinals in every facet of the game, winning 49-15.
In an era where the passing game is highlighted on a daily basis on both the collegiate and professional levels it is very easy to get caught believing that the game of football has drastically changed. This is perfectly understandable in that quarterbacks and receivers are throwing and catching for astronomical numbers. You also see the “Zone Read” being implemented into the league causing defenses to account for the perimeter of the entire field along with more stringent rules on how defensive backs can play receivers. One could realistically conclude that it is a new NFL however analyzing both games yesterday there are some basic concepts of football that still exist more than ever.
The Denver Broncos statistically had the #1 defense in the NFL coming into the AFC Championship against a battle tested, future Hall of Fame Quarterback in Tom Brady. Denver’s offense got most of their points early but it was their defense that hit and knocked down Brady 23 times with a dominating pass rush. It was obvious very early that the offensive line of the Patriots were no match for the front four of the Broncos. Peyton Manning, Quarterback of the Denver Broncos, as great as his career has been simply just had to manage the game and he did, going 17-32 for 176 yards, and two touchdowns.
In the other contest, the Carolina Panthers, the #1 scoring offense in the league, and the #6th ranked defense displayed absolute domination over a formidable Cardinals squad. The Panthers did it in every way that you could offensively. They ran the football with Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and Cam Newton along with Newton passing the football for over 330 yards. The offensive display was phenomenal but more so the defense for Carolina was opportunistic and ready to pounce on any given moment. They rushed Quarterback Carson Palmer, they turned him over, they stopped the run, and they scored. Both teams used throwback approaches to win their conference championships.
I essentially have gone around the world to come to the point of the more we believe that the National Football League has changed, the more it is pretty much the same. I worked coaching running backs under long time collegiate coach George Pugh and he simply said “football is about feet and hands”. That statement meant football remains as simple as blocking and tackling and if you cannot do either you cannot win. There are fundamental things that a winning team usually contains within it; a playmaking quarterback, a good offensive line, outstanding tacklers on defense, and a good pass rush. These concepts have never changed through the test of time in football regardless of what the “flavor of the month” has been on offense or defense.
So bringing it back locally to our hometown Atlanta Falcons, what lessons can all parties take? I think the Falcons brass has more than observed the need for quality trench players and how you cannot put a “band-aid” over a geyser. In free agency and in the draft this franchise must go after those players that contribute both now and long term. It must go after players that can protect the person that you have invested the most money into and go after players that go after the player that other teams have invested the most money into. No matter how much one thinks the game of football has changed, it will always be a matter of very simple concepts.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. You can follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or reach him by email Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.