Defense wins championships(?)

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2013 – 12:25 pm

The Ravens won the Super Bowl and the 49ers reached the Big Game. Both teams have long been known for their defenses, and at one point last week, I saw someone note that regardless of what big numbers guys like Brady and Manning and Brees put up, teams with strong defenses were left standing at the end. Defenses win championships.

Except it’s not true.

I’m not saying the defenses of Baltimore and San Francisco aren’t good. Of course they are, and the 49ers’ defense in particular spurred them to another great season. But you can’t have a Super Bowl end with a score of 34-31 and say defense wins championships. It’s about the teams that can be effective offensively enough these days that will win the title. The Ravens did lock down the Colts in the Wild Card round (nine points) and the Patriots in the AFC Championship (13 points), but in both cases the offense did plenty, and certainly, the Ravens’ wins against the Broncos and Niners were more about scoring points than not allowing them. The 49ers provide a greater example, allowing 31, 24 and then 35 points in three postseason games. San Fran did shut out the Falcons in the second half of the NFC Championship, but if it wasn’t for an offense that could pile up four touchdowns, that wouldn’t have mattered.

Is it any wonder, then, that teams were looking for offensive head coaches? As well as the Cardinals’ defense played this season, the offense just wasn’t enough (and yes, I realize that is the understatement of the year.) The Cardinals’ defense in the 2008 season was just OK statistically, but it had it’s moments — and it could rely on an offense that could score points with anyone. Bruce Arians is here because the offense needs a fix. The Seahawks and Niners will be favorites going into next season not because they have good defenses — which they do — but because their offenses suddenly look explosive behind young quarterbacks.

A team still needs a good defense. The Ravens still needed a crucial stop at the end of the game in New Orleans to clinch their title. A poor defense gets you nowhere near a Super Bowl no matter what your offense is like (right, Saints?) But the days when a team can ride a defense practically alone to a title are long gone, like the 2000 Ravens did. The rules don’t allow it, and at some point, points are needed. These days, you need a championship offense to win a championship.


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40 Responses to “Defense wins championships(?)”

  1. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Going solely off memory on this, but the 2000 Ravens were pretty unique for a SB champion, in that they were the only team I can recall that had an offense that never bailed them out at any point during the season. Even the 85-86 Bears had a game during the regular season where that applied, and the Steel Curtain survived a few high scoring SB’s. Point being, even with the NFL looking more and more like the CFL with each passing year, it’s usually the best overall team that gets Lombardi’s Trophy.

    However, with the offense we currently have in place we could put together the best defensive personnel from each of the aforementioned teams and it wouldn’t save us from the pick-six’s they gave up, or the three and outs they specialized in last year. Still hoping for the best, but in spite of Arians claims his offense is different from Whisenhunt’s, it’s still a vertical attack that requires a QB we don’t currently have and isn’t obviously apparent in the draft or FA. Hopefully Keim’s voice is the one that’s heard because it’s only the establishment of a power run game that looks realistic at this point.

  2. By AndyStandsUp on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Offenses win championships.
    Tell that to Air Coryelled- led San Diego Chargers.

    Like Aaron Rodgers said a few weeks ago – the NFL is cyclical.

  3. By Darren Urban on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    AndyStands —

    RE: Offense

    Didn’t say it applied to 1981. Said it is about today’s game. I believe it was defense first 30 years ago.

  4. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply


    Point taken. But I think in today’s NFL, Defense wins Championships in a different way.

    Let me explain; In this league, everyone can score. If you can’t, you go on long losing streaks and end with a 5-11 record. The QB is so important in today’s NFL, that without one, you cant win.

    With that knowledge, you have to have a defense that can do a few things to win. You need pass rushers to disrupt the other teams QB, along with good CBs to make them hold the ball a little longer, you need a good red zone defense to hold teams to FGs and you need turnovers.

    Let’s see how the Ravens defense won this game. Three times the niners marched into the red zone and got FGs or stopped. The Ravens scored TDs in the red zone. The Raven defense got two turnovers that turned into TDs and the niners got one that turned into 3 points. The Ravens harassed Kaepernick at the right moments to stop drives, while Flacco was able to step up and make the big plays

    So, assuming everyone’s offense in the playoffs can put up points, it was the Ravens defense that did what was needed to win the Championship.

    So, defenses don’t win 3-0 games much anymore, but I still think a good one will take you where you need to go. Of course, if you have a QB 🙂

  5. By Darren Urban on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    John the Draft Guy —

    RE: Defenses

    I think I acknowledged that. Obviously, you still need a good defense, just like always. You can always have moments. The 2008 Cardinals had moments as a defense. They came up with those stops in the postseason — save for the last one.

  6. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Oh to be Joe Flacco’s agent,

    As the 2013 off season begins soon, a huge name is a free agent. Of course the Ravens will not let Mr Flacco get away, but they will be forced to pay the Super Bowl winning and MVP QB a huge contract.

    As I watched that game, it reminded me of Jerry McGuire. Remember, Tidwell couldn’t get a new deal and then had the big game that opened the door to a bigger contract ? I just kept thinking the Ravens should have did a contract last year.

    Now the Ravens are going to show Joe the money.

    (of course we don’t know what the Ravens were offering before, but I just have a feeling, it will now be more)

  7. By jocards on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Just an observation; I think that Jim Harbaugh cries and moans more as a head coach than he did as a player and I wasn’t sure that was even possible.

  8. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply


    RE; 2008 superbowl

    You think Boldin was having flashbacks to 2008 when his AZ Cards had a lead only to watch the other team march down the field to win the game.

    Glad this time it ended differently for him.

  9. By Brian R. on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    nobody, and i mean, nobody stopped the Arizona Cardinals offense in 2008. our defense allowed our team to fail… thats how i see it.

  10. By johnwimmer on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Two former Cardinals who had notable involvement on the James Harrison 100 yard INT return for TD in SB43 now have rings. Just an observation.

  11. By D on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Cards need more on defense to keep up with Seattle and SF. Another DE, another ILB, figure out the strong safety spot and to find a #2 corner, right now they have PP and a bunch of nickel players in the secondary

  12. By GMAN on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Darren,I told my wife defense would win this game.I’m happy for the Ravens especially Q and Ray Lewis.I think Jim Harbaugh is a big baby and whiner. He must have been a spoiled brat as a kid.

  13. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    To Everyone;

    RE; Jim Harbaugh

    If he is your coach, you love him. If you play against him, you hate him.
    He is a guy who has tons of passion. When a flag is thrown or not thrown, he thinks it is always on the other team. His team can do no wrong in his eyes. He will stand up for his guys to a fault and defend them till the end. He believes his team is the best even after losing.

    That seems like a lot of baby whining to us card fans, but isn’t that the kind of coach you want in your corner as a player?

    PS, I really don’t think a coaches kid is a spoiled brat but if he was, it was knocked out of him when he went to Michigan with Coach Bo and NFL with Ditka.

  14. By jocards on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    RE; Jim Harbaugh

    Sure he’s a good coach that stands up for his players, no argument there. I also think that in the National Football League there is a certain amount of professionalism, diplomacy and decorum that should be displayed by an NFL head coach….I am not talking about his crying about every call on the sideline during a game, he’s emotional and passionate and that’s just a part of who he is…. I just think his beating the officials up over and over to the media post game were a bit much. Mike Smith could’ve done the same thing after the “no call” in Atlanta that effectively ended their season but he didn’t……at least not that I’m aware of.

  15. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply


    I didn’t see the post game interview. In that case, yes, it is too much.

  16. By D on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Cards need more draft picks….what could E. Doucet get you…a 4th rounder?

  17. By Mike Ellingboe on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    @Brian R,

    I’ll be the first to admit my history can be a little revisionist if not checked periodically, but to correct yours, our defense was really the driving force behind our playoff run that year. Opening game against Atlanta they shut down Turner and made them one-dimensional. They wrecked what was left of Delhomme’s career the week after, and did a good job against the Eagles in the NFC title game. Not to carve into old wounds, but it was our offense who turned a gift-wrapped interception into six, miserable and agonizing points for Harrison and the Steelers. A 14-point swing, well, let’s not bother with the math on that.

    Agree our offensive was great that year, at least our passing game, (seems so long ago now), but they didn’t get there without help.

  18. By GMAN on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Well said,Jocards!

  19. By bluepitt on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Well I think Q wins Champ’s!!!! Couldnt help but laugh when I caught Warner on the Gambo show on 620am. Warner: ” As good as Larry was, when ever we needed a spark or big play I looked for #81,” hahahaha might want to give it a listen! Scott H!!!
    Warner flat said with a chuckel that the Cards screwed up when they got rid of Q!!!
    Go to around 8:00 and take a listen!!!!!!!! Then go to min 20:00 Warner talks about Boldin making the HOF. Warner even talks about how the Ravens need to make Q the primary target, and he doesnt understand why they havent, The answer is simple, RAY will cry if he doesnt get his touches… Q for MVP!!!!! Who is the best WR on that team, Dare I say NFL!!!!! Just look at the stats! It is Q!!! Not RAY or TORREY. It is BOLDIN!!!! That Super Bowl and the road to it went trough him!!!!!

  20. By bluepitt on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    “That incident with Anquan and Todd, I really believe that all of it stemmed from the same things,” Warner explained. “I think it stemmed from the fact that he had given everything to this football team, and he felt, and I don’t have the details, he felt that they said that they were going to re-do his deal and give him a contract and what they said didn’t come to be. – See more at:
    I think it had a lot to do with Whiz as well if you remember the first thish we heard was that Boldin was upsett because Whiz didnt call or talk to him like he did the other “Leaders of the team” and he didnt include Q in the mix like he did the other “Leaders” He felt left out and was mad about it. So in short Whiz’s Ego started the Fire!

  21. By Scott H on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Well, it was truly bittersweet to see Anquan Boldin help drive another team to a SB win but I am nothing but very happy for him. The Ravens were already quite solid before Q came on board but that was mostly because of their defense…at that time, anyway. As the balance has shifted there in recent years to the offense carrying more of the load, Q has had as much to do with that as anyone. Flacco has become a better QB than I thought he could be and Torrey Smith is already a tremendous WR and ( especially ) deep threat. Contributing tremendously to the emergence of BOTH has been the steady toughness and consistency of Anquan Boldin. Flacco may have been the SB MVP, but I honestly believe that the Ravens’ MVP for the entire post-season would have to be Boldin.

  22. By Safety Guy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Wait till they find coach Jims’ fingerprints on the circuit breaker panel

  23. By Bagremarinus on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Well, i’m not sure. Defenses aren’t going to ever outscore good offenses. If a team is going to win then they will have to score more thant the other team, whether it be 10-7 or 31-27. Your saying the team with the best offense won the game, but maybe it is the team with the better defense that won the game. Today the advantage goes to the offense in many ways. Defenders cant hit like they used to and rules for receivers very much favors the receiver. The advantage is with the offense. Bring back great defenses from the past and make them play by todays rules and i bet you could add 7 to 10 points allowed per game to those old defenses averages. The ravens D held up at the end and the ravens won after a defensive stop not a last minute offenses score. The defense pulled it out (but gave up over 30 pts ).

  24. By clssylssy on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Obviously, you need to put points on the board to win, but, tell me that goal line stand by the Ravens didn’t allow them to win the game! The 9ers were favored to win but the Ravens defense all but rendered the faster, more youthful team inpotent and had the “electrical malfunction” not occurred allowing the 9ers to regroup and regain their composure, the focused and more disciplined Ravens team would have blown the 9ers out…what a sweet thought! The fact that we dumped our defense to start over doesn’t bode well for a promising season for the Cards considering the competition in the west and what these teams have defensively. Even the Rams have gotten tougher winning against both the Hags and the 9ers. The Ravens are now in a similar position as the Cards after our Superbowl appearance in that they are facing cap issues and the potential loss of twenty-two players. However, they have the best GM in the NFL and I’m sure he will find a way to retain key playmakers whereas the Cards were not. I have a feeling that even after Flacco gets his payday we will see both Ed Reed and Boldin wearing purple again next season. The Ravens are a solid dynasty and even with the loss of Ray Lewis and a few others I expect to see them in the playoffs again next year; John Harbaugh is an exceptional coach and can evaluate talent! What a fantastic day for Anquan Boldin; he FINALLY got his props and his catch in the 3rd quarter, according to Flacco was the outstanding play of the game. Way to go Q!

  25. By georgiebird on Feb 4, 2013 | Reply

    Agreed- as you said, defenses can no longer stop offenses that have very good QBs-the rules won’t allow it.
    The difference in the SB sometimes comes down to the last possession. SF had a field day against the Ravens’ defense with Kaepernick, Gore, and Davis among others having huge days. But the Ravens made the plays on the final SF drive stopping the Niners on four (lousy) plays from the 5 yard line.
    So football still comes down to making key plays at key times during the game.
    Cards’ defense in SB XLIII was probably better in many ways than this year’s Ravens’ defense-but couldn’t get the job done at the end.
    Some people like to look at the stats of a game and make up their talking points. But as the saying goes “statistics are for losers”.
    BTW, it still hurts a lot to talk about SB XLIII.

  26. By BIG RED on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Way to go Boldin on your well deserving Super Bowl victory. Biggest mistake in Cardinal history.

  27. By AzDesertRat1953 on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Nice to see Q get a ring.

    Also his team mate Michael Oher, (“The Blind Side”), the book is even better than the movie. From Nothing to the SB! Way to go!

    GO CARDS!!!

  28. By Eazy E on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Yeah Darren but obviously it was more than just we need an offensive coach. Their are defensive oriented coaches who have great explosive offenses(Tomlin, Belichick, etc.) You need a great head coach and everything else will take care of itself regardless of what their great at. A Special Teams coach turned Head Coach just won the super bowl for goodness sakes. It is because he’s a great coach.

  29. By Eazy E on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    I picked the 49ers but I am happy for a bunch of ravens especially Anquan. Both teams had players I really like on and off the field.

  30. By gbrim on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Football goes in cycles, and if the SB had been a low-scoring Ravens win there would be articles about the comeback of the championship defenses of years gone by.

    If you have a great offense your D will look worse statistically because the other team has to get in ‘race horse’ mode to catch up or keep up. Conversely, a bad offense makes your D look better statistically because your opponent spends a good chunk of the game sitting on the lead, knowing you probably can’t mount a comeback threat. Personally, I think a lot of our D success last year was because our opponents had no fear of our comeback potential. Just look at the difference in defensive stats for SF before and after Kaep took over at QB–they went from a game manager to a dynamic QB and suddenly their D stats got worse. Did their D suddenly get significantly worse, or did the in-game dynamics for SF change dramatically?

  31. By Mike G on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is well- and you enjoyed the bowl. I still think the best team that gets hot in the playoffs will win. All 3 facets of the game must contribute to winning a title. I also believe a teams drive and hunger can also be really important to winning and I think Baltimore had those traits this year. I do believe offense is probably the most important phase of the game today just because of the way the rules are–as you point out in your article. I still think its the ultimate team game and all 3 phases of the game must be strong to be successful!!! Hey Darren–Don’t you think though that Baltimore’s defense carried them to this championship????? Really thought Pollard was instrumental for them!!!

  32. By Darren Urban on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: Ravens defense

    No. I think the offense’s ability to score did. Obviously the defense made some stops. But ultimately, I saw it as the offense waking up.

  33. By Mike G on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Hey Darren–What was your opinion on the non-call at the end of the game on Crabtree. Do you think it was a penalty on the Ravens???? Would you have called it in that situation or swallow the whistle like the ref did ????–I know Jim Harbaugh is upset about it!

  34. By Darren Urban on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: Penalty

    I think I wouldn’t be surprised if it went either way. I don’t know what I would’ve done.

  35. By clssylssy on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    As pointed out by the announcer on replay, you could see Crabtree pushing off the helmet of the Raven defender. On Mike and Mike they also talked about Jim Harbaugh’s allegations of being “cheated” by bad calls and pointed out that there were questionable calls in the 9ers favor that got them to the SB.
    The tone of your article Darren sounded as if you were trying to make a case downplaying the importance of a strong defense to winning Championships, which I have to assume is because the Cards just dumped a defense that actually beat the Patriots at Foxboro and had been acclaimed by the “experts” in favor of starting over from scratch in a year when every other team in the league is courting the best defensive players? Just saying…that’s kinda mute now, it is what it is!

  36. By Darren Urban on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    clssy —

    RE: Tone

    Yes. It’s all “mute.”

  37. By jocards on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    clssylssy –

    Not trying to be a jerk but it is “moot”, not “mute”…..As in it is a moot point. A point in a case is said to be moot when it has been made irrelevant, and therefore does not need to be considered further.

  38. By Raxan on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    Actually the usual definition of moot is debatable. Also can be used to indicate that something is debatable as in – it can be mooted.

  39. By jocards on Feb 6, 2013 | Reply

    It is not interchangeable with “mute”…..and that is not debatable.

  40. By William Barry on Feb 17, 2013 | Reply

    I’m so glad Q got his superbowl win…its just too bad that we did not win SB43, and are we sure that the Pittsburg WR, got his feet in bounds, in the fourth quarter????Still not sure..

    I really dont care for the whinning of Harbaugh….I’m glad the Niners lost!!!! Lets go out and get our offense fixed under BA, and slam those Niners next year, and get to the SuperBowl!!!! “we can do this together”

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