After the Denver game it's time to revisit the 1st. defensive mantra.
This mantra has been on my mind for a while now. Pete's first defensive principle is "Do not allow big plays" and it is manifested in the "Bend but not Break" philosophy employed by our defense.
Why is it a main principle for Pete?
The first answer I saw was statistic. Teams that allowed less big plays usually won their games. I hate statistic explanations. 82% of casualties in traffic accidents have a driving license – does that imply that it's safer to drive without one?
Statistics should provide numerical support to a "cause and effect" explanation.
I then found that explanation and it goes more or less like this –
By preventing the big plays you force the offense to go up the field by small increments. Each drive therefore will have more downs. Each down is susceptible to interception or fumble. Small increments also contribute to more 3rd down opportunities to stop the drive. All in all – the more downs – the better chance for the defense to stop the drive.
Last year stats were another validation for this concept – We were not in the top 3 defenses in yards allowed but were first in preventing points and games are decides by points not yards.
Trashing Denver on Saturday was another example. While Manning seemed to move up the field at ease against our defense – he ended the half tied 7-7 with our defense.
So, is this the winning mantra for a championship team?
It certainly seems to be a good mantra for a winning team. It does produce the avarge results that enable a team to finish a full season in the plus.
But is it good enough for the kind of teams you meet in January?
Let's be very clear about it – Playing to prevent the big plays – "Bending" – is another word for making small gains easier for the offense by making sure they can't break those plays into big gain. When playing Rodgers or Brady, RG or Manning in a one do or die game – can we effort this method?
Those guys will take every inch you give then and can pick you apart very quickly. We survived RG storming ahead by 14 points; we didn’t survive Ryan storming by 20. The last 2 plays of the Atlanta game were classic "Bend but not break" plays. On each play the receiver was tackled immediately for no extra gain. We were bending, not breaking. We know how that ended.
Having this type of defense is forcing the offense to play against a rubber wall. The harder they try to push deep through it the harder it resists. It frustrates offenses. It wears then down. It makes them suseptible to errors. It works most of the times and produces a winning team. However, comes January, when every game is "do or die", don't you rather have a brick wall? A steel curtain?
I was fine with bend but not break until I read somewhere about Sherman not allowing a completion in training for a whole practice or a whole week or something. Then came the chargers game and I watched Thurmond having 4-5 tackles, each bringing a receiver down immediately after making the completion. Those were nice, perfect bend but not break execution. No completions sounds way cooler isn't it?
And we can't really count on getting the fumble on 1st and goal on the 1-yard line every time now can we?
I like the "not break" part. Comes January I feel that after a full season of bending it's time to give those bending backs a break. It's time to stand tall and take no prisoners. I'd go with mantra no. 3 then – "BE PHISICAL".