D-FENCE

The National Football League became a battle of arms over the last decade. Every team is looking for the next “gunslinger”such as a Brett Favre, Patrick Mahomes, or Lamar Jackson to rifle the ball  down field. However, if there is one thing that the 2019 regular season has taught us thus far, it’s that at the end of the day, defense wins championships.

The league fell head over heels for superstar quarterbacks such as reigning league-MVP Patrick Mahomes who flashes never-before-seen throws with ease, resembling moves made only from the shortstop position on a baseball diamond, not on a football field.

Whenever there’s a trip through football’s history, the stories of Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana and now Tom Brady are retold ad nauseam. It usually also highlights how the blue-collared, brute ways of the early years heightened by the leather helmet era of the 1950’s has dwindled and pushed aside for the new flashy, offense-forward spectacle it has become  today. 

However, when looking at the current season, the top two teams with the best record don’t have a top-ranked offensive attack or operate in a way that airs the ball all over the field with great execution.

The lone undefeated team in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers use an offensive attack that ranks 22nd in the league in passing yards a game according to teamrankings.com.

The 49ers were perfect through the halfway part of their schedule, going 8-0, and they achieved this with a premier defense that ranks 1st in yards allowed and 1st in sack percentage, and 2nd in total team points allowed.

The 49ers strengthened their defense during the offseason by trading for Pro-Bowl defensive end Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs, and drafting Ohio State University star pass rusher defensive end Nick Bosa.

According to Pro Football Reference, Ford proved value with 5.5 sacks on the year. Other than Deforest Buckner, no other 49ers player accumulated more than 5.5 sacks the entire 2018 season. Nick Bosa is living up to the hype and then some by not only being the early favorite for defensive NFL rookie of the year, but also putting his hat in the discussion for all-around defensive player of the year as well with seven recorded sacks so far, a forced fumble and recovery along with an interception.

The elite play of the 49ers defense enabled them to double their win total from a year ago in only half a season, and up until last week, the New England Patriots were the only other undefeated team.

For the better part of the last decade, the Patriots were the standard of offense in the NFL, however, this year was a bit duller than others.

Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, yet the Patriots are ranked only seventh in the league in passing yards per game. Respectable, but doesn’t meet their standards. Furthermore, the Patriots rank in the middle of the league in total yards per game. This is certainly not what the NFL is used to seeing from New England.

Then how is it that this middle-of-the-road offense can manage an 8-1 record? The answer: a defense that ranks first in points allowed.

Granted the Patriots had the pleasure of playing in the worst division in football, their defense has made opposing offenses look amateur at best.

Over the offseason, the Patriots lost their defensive coordinator Brian Flores to the Miami Dolphins as he took the reigns as their new head coach. This opened the door for Patriots defensive minded head coach Bill Belichick to run his defense again. He ran a defense that ranks second in passing yards allowed and first in takeaways.

The 49ers and Patriots showed that teams still need more than just Mr. Right at quarterback to be able to compete in the NFL. No matter how many Mahomes or Bradys are in the league, defense will still wins championships in the NFL.