Pressure wins championships

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2014 – 3:22 pm

The Seahawks’ defense is being lauded today and rightfully so for their throttling of the Broncos’ record-setting offense in the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of breakdowns out there comparing Seattle’s defensive year to those of the best ever, and the Seahawks deserve to be in that conversation with teams like the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears (I’d think some of those Steel Curtain teams should be in the discussion too, but I digress.)

Defense doesn’t necessarily win championships — I saw a stat that said the team with the higher-ranked defense actually has lost six of the last eight Super Bowls — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. But I believe pressure can help win a title, and that’s certainly what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and why the Cardinals had defensive success this season. charted that the Seahawks blitzed Manning on only six of 51 dropbacks in the Super Bowl, yet were in his face all game. That’s the kind of pressure the Giants put on Tom Brady in the last Super Bowl played in Arizona, the one in which New York placed the stunning upset on the previously undefeated Patriots. When you can pressure with four, everything changes.

The Cardinals had a lot of pressure success in part because defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was a genius with mixing up attack plans on the quarterback, and there was a lot of blitzing involved in that. They also benefited when linebacker John Abraham played like the John Abraham who had spent a career getting double-digit sacks every season. That kind of rusher is important. And going forward, it’s one of the reasons General Manager Steve Keim will lean toward not only the offensive but the defensive line in terms of trying to make the most improvement. It’s great to have one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, but without pressure, it doesn’t mean much. The same goes for Seattle’s Richard Sherman and the rest of that defensive backfield — they can afford to be aggressive, because they know the pressure will be coming sooner rather than later.


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28 Responses to “Pressure wins championships”

  1. By Scott H on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Well, no doubt that Seattle’s defense was a HUGE factor in yesterday’s game. But their offense was solid and efficient AND their special teams made some BIG plays as well. The KO return for a TD to open the 2nd half ended the game. Turns out, it was already over but…any hope Denver MIGHT have had going into the 2nd half was blown out of the sky by Seattle’s special teams.

    But I don’t believe that defense wins championships, period. Because look at the teams who have won the most recent Super Bowls. Drew Brees and the Saints. Aaron Rogers and the Packers. Those teams were NOT led by their defenses. Even the Ravens last year were much more about Flacco and their OFFENSE than their defense.

    True, defenses were pretty prominent in the two SB’s played by the Pats & Giants, so…OK.

    But to say that defenses win championships is just too simple. AND it just ain’t true. Not consistently, anyway.

  2. By andystandsup on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    That’s why I think, based on the dearth of available OTs in the draft, the team will be looking for pass rusher over CB/SS in the first round.
    Would that be your early guess also, Darren, or would you value a different position for the first pick over 90 days away?

  3. By Darren Urban on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Andystands –

    RE: draft pick

    Still too early IMO. I think it’ll be a lineman. Offense or defense, depends on who is on the board.

  4. By Dave C. on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Denver’s problem is the complete opposite of the Cardinals. Broncos have no defense. I would really like to know if Manning ever thinks about what could have been if he had chose Arizona.

  5. By georgiebird on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    With Seattle’s SB route, 2013 marks the best season for the Cardinals since 1959 when I started as a fan. Yes, there was the SB near victory 5 years ago, but that all started with a terrible division and then some nice games in the playoffs. This year the Cards were for the most part competitive in all four games against the two best teams in football and that includes beating Seattle away.
    Keim and BA have a tough road ahead. The Cards will be on everyone’s radar in 2014. Both the offense and defense will have to be better just to get back to 10-6.
    But for now, congratulations to the Cards, the 3rd best team in the NFL. And to think that BA was given so little support in the COY voting.

  6. By georgiebird on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Enjoyed the interview with Michael Bidwill and Rich Eisen. Michael Bidwill is a very enthusiastic owner.
    Excepting a year or two when NFC East teams like Dallas and Washington were the two best teams in football during the 70’s. I don’t remember when the two best teams in football resided in the same division and also had the two best young QBs in the game.
    I’m not doubting Michael Bidwill’s honesty, but the monumental task of getting to the playoffs while battling SF and Seattle has to be a big part of Michael’s desire for expanded playoffs.

  7. By Dynosoar on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Good write up. Thanks for not using a SB pic, but Abraham instead. He certainly brought the pressure.

    So a defensive front that pressures and an offensive front that protects. One ups the havoc level and forces bad throws so our secondary can do what they do best. The other allows Palmer to find our awesome WR’s, RB’s and TE’s.

    Again, nice write up.

  8. By Ottis Anderson Fan on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    And defensive pressure from our opponents is why we need an upgrade or two on our offensive line. The defense can’t do it all themselves, all the time.

    More than anything else this offseason, the Cards need to figure out a way to get out to faster starts. Avoiding interceptions and fumbles early in the game would be a good place to start.

  9. By Craig on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    With everyone on defense back healthy next year we’ll be just fine. Won’t hurt having another effective pass rusher. Would rather draft offensive lineman. I still think that’s a bigger need.

  10. By Hammy on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Congrats to the Seahawks! As much as I dont like them, I have to respect how they played and the hard work they put in this year. As a result they are champs. This if anything will make the Cardinals better next year.

  11. By Mike G on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is well!— I thought Seattle would beat Denver but never by that margin. I think Seattle is the best team in football. Really did not think the AFC was that strong this year. Did not think Denver could match Seattle physically. I believe playing in the NFC West this year ultimately will make your team better. It is by far the best division in football. I thought the Seattle–SF game was the Super Bowl a couple weeks ago. I think the Card’s developed their physical play nice this year–and I hope Steve Keim continues building that aspect of the Cards team. You make a great point above in saying when you can get pressure with your front four without blitzing—it is a big advantage on defense. I totally agree with that.
    Hey Darren– I thought the Card’s had a great 2013 season–but my biggest concern still is —can they limit and improve their turnovers on offense with Palmer as QB???? Do you think the Cards’ coaches will continue to make that a point of emphasis in 2014???

  12. By Darren Urban on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Mike G –

    RE: Turnovers

    That’s the plan.

  13. By Chuck 1 on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    The BAD news: The Seahawks won the Championship.

    The GOOD news: We beat them (ONCE) this season and will play them twice next season with an opportunity to improve on that record.

    We can do that in 2014, or if not, certainly by Keim’s stated goal of a much improved roster in 2015.

  14. By Chuck 1 on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Additional GOOD news:

    Because the Seahawks won the Championship, it validates the predominant view that the NFC West, of which the Cards is a member, is truly the best division in the NFL.

    Now, it’s up to Michael, Keim and BA to win that Division.

  15. By Credit Card on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    The super bowl makes our offensive line look not all that bad …

  16. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply


  17. By Credit Card on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Seahawks defense is good, but understand the high altitude Broncos have NEVER in the history of their organization won a game on the road whereby they were physically away from Mile High 1-week and more.

    The body naturally adjusts going from high altitude to low altitude.

    Going from high to low altitude the body will over-perform and feel super human by having more VO2 within the cells. However, after about 5-7 days, the cells are trying to adjust to more O2 in the air, and depletes VO2. Thus causing every person (no matter who) will feel lethargic –ask any distance runner. Feeling tired and a playing pro football game is disastrous, hence the Broncos have NEVER EVER being able to win on the road, provided they spent over 1-week being away from their high altitude confines.

    Yes, the Seahawks defense is good, but they certainly had human physiology on their side on Feb 2nd.

  18. By Steve on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Darren: Good article, I imagine that Keim will be very motivated to build a Cards team that can compete with and win against both the 49ers and Seahawks. Assuming more talent is brought in to upgrade both lines, what position/s would you guess Keim will focus on next to upgrade the Cardinals in the very tough NFC West?

  19. By Darren Urban on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    Steve –

    RE: positions

    I’d think OLB, TE, and maybe QB.

  20. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    It goes to show you why top pass rushers are always sought after early in the first round. Clowney, Mack, and Barr will all go in the top 15.

    But on the flip side, that is why LTs are in such demand. 3 of the top 4 picks were LTs last year. You need to keep the pressure off you. Guys this year like Robinson, Lewan and Martin are Tackles who will be taken in the top 15.

    As we saw last night, even Manning needs protection. Grabbing a QB before you can protect him is just plain a mistake. And if your defense can’t get to the QB, you are going to struggle.

    So, looking at the cardinals, in the first round you have to either find a LT to protect against the pressure or a passrusher to get pressure on the other team.
    It will be interesting.

    BTW, worst superbowl I can remember. Also terrible commercials. What a waste of 4 hrs.

  21. By Cactus Jeff on Feb 3, 2014 | Reply

    I just see it differently. This will get me clobbered but the the biggest difference between Seattle and the Cardinals is the play at the Safety position. The difference was night and day.
    And this notion of the Seahawks being one of the best defenses of all time is just crazy. The Niners had a better defense this year! What happened was you saw a very good defense play against an extremely overrated QB. Peyton is a hall of fame QB that should be placed somewhere between Kurt Warner and Jim Kelly. Under a moderate pass rush, his lack of play making ability and arm strength were exploited.
    But the media has been convincing football fans that they were watching the best QB of all time, so now with egg on their face, the Seahawks defense is the 85-86 Bears. He is not the best of all time (see Elway, Favre, Marino, Montana) and the Seahawks are not the 2000 Ravens or 85 Bears. Great defense and QB, yes, best of all time, NO WAY
    Cardinals, get younger, longer safeties, more speed at WR, and add depth in both lines. Go Cards!

  22. By Rich on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    Great article. That’s football. Always has been. Line of scrimmage.

  23. By erik on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    I agree with most everyone on here, the way to beat Seattle and San Fran is by improving both the D-line and O-line. It all starts in the trenches. I also hope they are able to find a safety in the draft to go with Honey Badger and PP.

    This year was no fluke, Keim and Co. KNOW how to build a physical, fast team and the Cards will only improve from here. All I know is the Seahawks were lucky the Cards did not get in the playoffs. They won’t be able to say that next year!

  24. By Jahstone on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    @ Credit Card – then how do you explain 97′ and 98′ superbowl wins? Terrell Davis did not look lethargic. However, to your point, I think that heavy, cool NYC air might have played a factor within the lower altitude.

    BTW – been in CO for 14 years (left AZ in 1999), and never had a rooting bone for the Broncos…felt nothing last year when they lost, and quite frankly was bored this year and thinking how much that victory in Seattle meant. GO CARDS!!!!

  25. By clssylssy on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    i believed Seattle the better team but the Broncos had Roger Goodell, the press, the NFL, and the bandwagoners believing Peyton Manning the poster child for football, and this Superbowl, all of a sudden, became the Peyton Manning Show…until reality set in and the Legion of Boom took the field! In the preseason the Broncos played every team from the NFC West and lost all but one to the Rams,(which the Broncos won by 1 point), and while many fans don’t place any value on the preseason, I think this was illustrative of their clear difference in playing styles; had their arrogance not gotten in the way the Broncos could have learned something. The West has a more physical and scrappier style of smash mouth,ground and pounds football, with a strong emphasis on defense, while the East are the “old guard” elitist with money and politics on their side to buy a showey offense, preferring to keep it in the air without getting dirty. John Elway has been able to buy some amazing talent for Denver, as he too was once The Golden Child of the NFL so, is it any surprise that the spin doctor made everything this year about the Broncos? How fair was that to Peyton Manning, really? All year the Seahawks have been the team nobody wanted to play and the only team to really have a respectable win over them (and in their house) was one of their division peers,not the 9ers,but The Arizona Cardinals! Growing up at Arrowhead, I have NEVER, been fond of the Broncos, who aside from the Seahawks have the most obnoxious fans in the league. I still think that any team in the NFC West could have handled the Broncos as well as the Hawks did because of our style, and this is a VERY exciting time to be part of such an explosive division. Unlike, many Cards fans who judge our brother teams by their fans (admittedly hard not to do), playing the best twice a year will only serve to make us better so, I can say, GOOD JOB SEAHAWKS…IT’S SKITTLES BABY!! Next year will be our turn to hoist the Lombardi as we have already figured out how to beat the Champs!! 🙂 GO CARDS! LET’S GET’R’DONE !

  26. By Sir60 on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    Seems like everyone, but Cactus Jack, has forgotten how those tightends chewed us up last season. When it comes to need, I put OL, SS, and DL in that order. In the draft, BPA.

  27. By Raxan on Feb 4, 2014 | Reply

    One dimensional teams seldom win championships. But defense is always an important factor, not just having a better defense than your opponent which may not make a lot of difference, a number 10 defense vs. a number 12 defense e.g. but having a top tier defense. The Broncos have a better offense than the Seahawks do. But the Seahawk defense was dominant and won the game. Turnovers are also key which come from having a defense that can force mistakes. I think Pete Carroll proved the point on defense by the way he built the Seahawks.

    We will get a chance to play the Broncos in 2014 and I will be anxious to see how well we do. I hope Payton will be QBing.

  28. By Scott H on Feb 5, 2014 | Reply

    Like some others, I’m not ready to put Seattle on another planet all by themselves. That NFC title game could easily have gone either way and I put San Fran right there with them. And given that the Cardinals have truly joined the ranks of the House of Horrors that is the NFC West – thanks to THEIR defense – AND with how far the Panthers came this year…there are some teams in the NFC that can go toe-to-toe with the Seahawks. Heck, the Cardinals were 2-2 against the aforementioned teams in 2013, so…game on.

    I will NOT put the Seahawks in any category based on that SB game ( or lack thereof ) against a Broncos team that was not prepared and wanted no part of the Seahawks after they took a few hits. Hell, the NFL should have called the 49ers or the Cardinals at half time and let THEM play the 2nd half. At least we would have seen some competition and a defense that can hit and stifle like Seattle’s.

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