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Photo: Genessa Gutzait

The Golden Age

It’s only fitting that on the week Earl Thomas—the Seahawks all-pro safety who anchored one of the best defenses of the recent past—fractured his leg, 12 teams allowed at least 30 points and three teams allowed over 40. Thomas’ reinjury of the leg he fractured in 2016 will end his season, and after flipping off his own sideline while being carted off the field, his time in Seattle is undoubtedly over. So too is defensive football.

After most of last season’s best teams boasted dominant defenses, the NFL got their wish: offensive football is in, while defense is optional.

So, what happened to defenses? It wasn’t too long ago that teams were retrofitting their teams to match the defensive-heavy Seahawks or Broncos. 

The primary issue is secondary play. With the passing attack in full gear across the league, secondaries are routinely getting fleeced. A mind-boggling 13 quarterbacks had at least 300 yards passing this week. Another young quarterback finished with six passing touchdowns in a game; this time it was Mitch Trubisky, who finished with only seven touchdowns in 12 games last season. 

However, it’s not all on the secondaries. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who watches football that the NFL has made it nearly impossible to hit the quarterback. After Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone last year, new rules were put into effect this season to protect the quarterback.

The protections are working a little too well. Now, sneezing in the direction of a quarterback can result in a 15-yard penalty. Defenders can’t hit low, they definitely can’t hit high, they can’t drive the quarterback to the ground, they’re not even supposed to land on quarterbacks when tackling them. With bubble wrap placed around the league’s greatest assets, defenses are severely handicapped. 

Digging deeper still, offensive skill players are as versatile as ever. Running backs are forces in the running game and passing game, young quarterbacks are loaded with speed and bazookas, while tight ends are no longer big, burly blockers, but nimble passing weapons. NFL defenses have failed to adapt to the new speed of the game. Until they do so, be ready for the golden age of the offense. 

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