The NFL season is in the books and the Baltimore Ravens are the champions, but there is a disturbing trend going on in the league. The NFL understands that most people, especially the casual fans, want offense and points. Therefore over the past 20 years or so, the league has continually made rule changes that favor the offense. After watching the postseason it is clear that it has gotten out of hand, and the league has to address it. Defenses, even the best ones, don’t have a chance versus the better offenses.
The first rule that must be addressed is pass interference, it is called far too often and it is often called wrong. No one is saying that we should go back to the days of Lester Hayes when defensive backs could basically maul receivers and get away with it. However, the defensive backs of today cannot breathe on a receiver without a flag coming out. It’s a difficult rule to interpret and enforce, but the league has to do something.
Consistency would also be nice, one play is flagged for pass interference and another one just like it is not. Part of me is happy that there was no flag on the fourth down play of the San Francisco 49ers that decided the game, but how is that not pass interference? It has been all season. One last point, the penalty for pass interference is too severe. The NFL needs to adopt the college rule and making it a 15-yard penalty instead of a spot foul. Quarterbacks are just throwing the ball up knowing there’s a 50-50 chance that they will draw a flag, and pick up an easy 50 or 60 yards.
I’m all for player safety but football is a rough game and hitting is apart of it. Again no one is saying that everything should be allowed but defenders have to be able to hit without turning their head to see if a flag is coming. There are far too many hits that are “legal” but because the head jerks back, a flag comes out. If a linebacker hits a receiver in the chest, then that’s a legal hit. Penalties are being called based on the result of the play, not on the play itself.
The new collective bargaining agreement is also hurting defenses, hitting has been limited in practice and the tackling in the league is atrocious. It’s unfair to ask defenders to be good at tackling if it can’t be practiced once training camp is over. Offenses are based on timing and rhythm, both of those can be practiced without hitting.
There’s a saying that goes, “Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships.” It’s a great saying but it’s not true anymore, the truth is if your favorite team is not scoring 28-34 points a game then you can’t win on a consistent basis. It’s entertaining but real football fans want defense too.
The best game I’ve ever watched was a divisional playoff game between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in 1998. It was 14-10, Broncos and the hitting in that game was great. Every first down was a battle and every point was huge, it was fantastic.
All of this is a fine line because player safety should be the top priority, but defenses don’t have a prayer. The 49ers were widely considered one of the best defenses in the league this past season, and they looked lost in the Super Bowl. Credit goes to the Ravens, of course, but some of it is the rules that favor the offense. I don’t have all the answers but it needs to be addressed.
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