Balance. You know you want it.
Why do I feel better about this year’s Seahawks team than I have in my entire lifetime? Balance. A great defense combined with a great offense. Breaking it down even further, we’ve got a dynamite – nearly unstoppable – secondary and a hopefully improving D-line play. Pass rush, one would think, will be improved. Run defense, one would think, will at least remain as it was last year, when it was still pretty damn good. On offense, we have a supernatural run game and we’ve got the pieces in place to be elite in the passing game.
Scoring lots of points. Giving up relatively few points. That’s the name of the game.
What do you think of when you think of Super Bowl champions over the last decade or so? You think of balance. A balanced offensive attack combined with a stout defense. But, really, how balanced were those teams?
Let’s go back to the 2003 season and work our way forward. Starting with Super Bowl XXXVIII, we’ve got back-to-back Patriots championships. Those were some relatively balanced teams – they weren’t yet the Patriots! of 2007 when they were almost all offense carrying a nothing defense – but I would still say that the offense was ahead of the game and the defense was tagging along for the ride.
That brings us to Super Bowl XL. Suddenly, a flip-flop: a great defense carrying a so-so offense. Yeah, that Steelers team had some weapons on offense, but Roethlisberger was still a youngster, and that was primarily a run-first, grind-it-out offense.
The following year, once again a flip flop: the Colts defeated the Bears, with Peyton Manning securing his place among the all-time great quarterbacks. That Colts team was almost entirely built around the offense, with a couple of pieces on defense who – when healthy – made them somewhat respectable (also helped that other teams were often playing from behind and thus became one-dimensional).
With Super Bowl XLII, we had a clash of Offense vs. Defense. The 2007 Patriots were arguably the greatest offense of all time. Maybe not even “arguably”! If you were to do the research, I’m sure you could easily prove that they were the best. Either way, their Perfect Season came to a crushing halt against the Giants in the Super Bowl, as New York’s defense completely shut down everything Brady and Co. tried to do. That Giants offense wasn’t inept, per se, but they weren’t anything special either. Without that defensive line, those Giants wouldn’t have done a damn thing.
Next year, we had the Steelers and Cardinals. By this point, I would argue, the Steelers’ offense had surpassed its defense. Roethlisberger was a legitimate force of nature by this point in his career, as he was slinging it all over the field. As a result, the running game suffered, but they were able to out-score opponents where they hadn’t back in 2005. The defense was still solid, but overrated and aging. Balanced, but not really.
The subsequent two years, we had the Saints and the Packers taking the title. Both teams were REMARKABLY better on offense than they were on defense. After that, we had Giants vs. Patriots II – pretty much a watered down version of the original. Which leads us into last season’s Super Bowl: the Ravens vs. the 49ers.
Finally, two teams where “balance” actually MEANS something. The Ravens have been good for a while now, but they’ve always lacked just a little something that would carry them over the hump. More often than not, that “something” was related to an offense that wasn’t QUITE good enough. Well, with the ascension of Joe Flacco, and less of a reliance on their erstwhile “run-first” motto, the Ravens’ offense finally rose to the level of its defense. Truth be told, this happened simultaneously with its defense being on its last legs, age-wise, and sinking to the level of its offense.
So, what do we derive from all this? Well, more often than not, unless you have a pass-rush like the Giants or the refs in your pocket like the Steelers, offense wins championships. You need SOME balance, but balance is actually quite overrated in itself. You need to do one thing exceptionally well – score points – and you need your defense to be just good enough (or just opportunistic enough) to get the job done.
Want to know why all those offensive juggernauts like the Packers, Colts, and Saints couldn’t keep it together to become a dynasty? Because their defenses were only good for those single seasons where they won it all. And by “good” I don’t even mean good! I mean decent. Those teams needed everything to break right just to be decent, because more often than not their defenses have been terrible, and that’s why – in spite of some great quarterback play – they’ve fallen short of a championship in most years.
As everyone knows, the last real dynasty was the Patriots of the turn of the century. That defense wasn’t the ’85 Bears or anything, but it was rock solid, with many great individuals piecing together enough of a barrier for opposing offenses to keep their teams in the game long enough to win it in the end. You’ll notice that once the Patriots decided to super-charge their offense to the detriment of re-building their defense, they haven’t won a title since. Sure, they’ve won their division a bunch (while being surrounded by bumbling idiots like the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets), but once you’ve gotten a taste of filet mignon, the last thing you want is a big heaping plate of cow assholes.
So, again, why am I so bullish on the 2013 Seahawks? Yes, it’s balance, but it’s also a confidence in this offense having what it takes to outscore anybody and everybody in the league. This is going to sound pretty flippant, but it’s not all that difficult to score on this Seahawks defense. Granted, they gave up the fewest points in the league in 2012, but that didn’t stop teams like the Lions and Falcons to run up the score. That didn’t stop the Redskins from looking like a juggernaut in the first quarter, or the Dolphins from ramming it down our throats at the end of the game. This defense, for as great as it was in 2012, was still capable of unthinkable lapses in judgment, positioning, and skill. As the season wore on, and the offense improved (and, quite frankly, as the level of opponents diminished), the Seahawks were able to mask some of those deficiencies. Regardless, an elite defense with a lead and 30 seconds to go in the game doesn’t give up a game-winning field goal to the Falcons in the playoffs. So, obviously, they’ve got some things to work on.
The defense was clearly better than the offense in 2012, but that gap was seriously narrowed by season’s end. The Seahawks have shown improved talent and resiliency, highlighted by the comeback victory against the Redskins and the unbelievable near-comeback against the Falcons. In 2013, I fully expect the Seahawks’ offense to be everything the football world talks about, overshadowing what is already a very-good defense, and in the process giving that defense yet another chip on its shoulder with which to use as fuel to be the best.
Balance. When you’re talking about the league’s best offense and the league’s best defense, I should say that’s the type of balance that wins championships.