Growing up watching football in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, the NFL was a run first, pass second league. Teams seemed keen on handing the ball off to their franchise backs, and relied on their stout defenses to make a play with the game on the line. We saw big bruisers like Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon, and Jamal Lewis tote the rock on 1st and 2nd downs, and the big pass plays came as a result of a successful rushing attack. Offenses were built around do-it-all running backs such as Curtis Martin of the New York Jets or Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks. The NFL was a ground and pound, defensive minded kind of game.
As of recently, however, the league has transformed into a pass first league. Without a franchise QB, offenses are considered flimsy, lacking the key component necessary to win the game late in the 4th. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles are using speedsters on the outside and the strong arm of their QB to hurl the ball all over the field like a stray bullet from a gun. Before we had running backs like Ladanian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James dominating the field, and now it is the Age of the Quarterback. Games are now determined by greats such as Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Teams are drafting to be faster, more athletic, and to give their golden QB’s the necessary blocking and weaponry to be successful in what is now a pass driven league. Today’s mindset is this: if you can’t throw the ball down field, you can’t win.
Except for the Seattle Seahawks.
The ‘Hawks are a blast from the past. They are somewhat of a return to football of the old, the football I grew up watching. They pounded franchise running back Marshawn Lynch over and over throughout the season, and finished 2nd in the league in rushing attempts with 509. Off of those 509 attempts the Seahawks totaled 2,188 yards (4th best) and 136.8 yards a game (also 4th best). Knowing their defense, led by the Legion of Boom (see any article on Richard Sherman for more info), would make plays with the game on the line enabled the Seahawks to change their offensive approach. They did not try to force sophomore QB Russell Wilson to make plays through the air, but rather used their successful rushing attack to put Wilson in a position to win or even manage the game. True, Wilson very well may have the skills to run a pass-first offense in this league. But that’s the beauty of it.
He doesn’t have to.
Seattle’s Super Bowl run was nothing short of great coaching. Pete Carroll knew the strengths of his team. Defense and running the football. He never shied away from either, as both strengths continued to produce win after win. Seattle’s pure domination (there is no better word) of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII was the icing on a season’s worth of cake. What did Seattle do? They ran the football and completed short passes that moved the sticks. And then they let their strength – the Seattle Defense – do the rest. Add on a TD by Percy Harvin on Special Teams, and the game was over before the third quarter even really began. Seattle won their first ever Super Bowl using a strategy that had seemingly disappeared forever.
The Seattle Seahawks are the last of a dying breed. There is little denying that the game of football as we knew it is changing. The transformation is almost complete. Teams are desperately searching for that magic man who has the intangibles necessary to his team to the big game. But then we have the ‘Hawks, who are perfectly happy running the ball down your throat and creating chaos with their defense of personalities. As we are thrown into a new era of the NFL, it is refreshing and nostalgic to know that there is still one team hanging on, and even thriving, in the past.
Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVIII Champions!