So What’s The Catch?

Photo via Michigan Insiders

The balance in the world order has been somewhat restored, as the Philadelphia Eagles outscored Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

Just kidding. Wait, I’m not kidding. But if I were an Eagles fan this morning, I would probably check the headlines a couple of times, just to make sure I didn’t dream the whole thing.

And all is right in Momma’s world, as pretty much the lone defensive hero of said Super Bowl was none other than Momma’s very first pick in her very first BLA Mock Draft. At the time I said:

Scouts Inc. has him at #18, cbssports has him at 28 and rising, and he won the Senior Bowl MVP. We need to get some younger players on the D-line, and frankly finding a good linebacker that is a pleasure to look at isn’t easy. This gentleman gets my recommendation.

And in case you’re wondering, the photo was the one published with the article. Which I would link, but a Google search didn’t reveal its location…

But to return to the Super Bowl, what was that about “defense wins championships?” again? Being as the game began at 12:30 am today in Momma’s current location, I didn’t watch it, but given that the Eagles punted once and the Patriots not at all, I can’t imagine defense was a terribly important part of the game. And this, despite the Eagles having the No. 5 overal defense (according to Football Outsiders) and the undisputed No. 1 defensive line. Which would seem to say that in this day and age excellent offense trumps excellent defense.

All is also right in the world of NFL officiating—or at least they aren’t being accused of giving the game to the Patriots. Which could have happened, I gather, had the disputed touchdown by Zach Ertz been overturned, as has every other disputed touchdown involving the Patriots’ opponents this season. Interesting that Ertz “survived the ground” when he lost the ball, but fortunately for Eagles’ fans everywhere he had already “made a football move.” Remember that one? I thought that didn’t count anymore.

But I suppose I should save any other Super Bowl commentary for after I have actually watched the game, if I ever do. Not that I mind an offensive tour de force, which this game clearly was. But I’m not sure my nerves can stand it. I suspect I will constantly be thinking that there is still some way this can go wrong.

So let’s return to this thought—”Defense Wins Championships.” A defense almost won it last year, except they got too tired running around the field, thus allowing Brady to make up a 25-point deficit late in the game. And in fact I’m beginning to think the only way to beat a Brady-led team is to outscore them.

There has been a tremendous amount of pissing and moaning about the Steelers’ defense, which in the end finished No. 9 in total defense and No. 12 in defensive lines. Admittedly the Steelers’ brain trust didn’t have a good enough plan for what to do if Ryan Shazier went down, although as Hombre queried in last week’s Smoldering Questions, perhaps we underestimated the importance of Tyler Matakevich being hurt in the same game. But if we look at yesterday’s Super Bowl, should we be asking not why the defense was so vulnerable but why the offense didn’t kick into gear sooner and stay more dominant. Because it appears to me that in today’s NFL then a truly dominate offense can scarcely be shut down at all, by almost any sort of defense.

So should the Steelers’ next moves be more to make sure the offense is even more dominant than next year? To, for instance, replace the weakest link on the offensive line, which would be Ramon Foster? I tend to think that is going to happen sooner rather than later, as both B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler graded out better—considerably better, like almost 30 points better—than Foster.

And the next to go perhaps should be Maurkice Pouncey. It seems crazy to say. Ben loves him, he’s still very athletic, eight years after being drafted, makes some great plays, and is a true team leader. But the Steelers need to at least be grooming his replacement, because I’m starting to think that a truly dominate run game is going to depend more on a truly dominate offensive line than it is on re-signing Le’Veon Bell.

And until we can reliably get a conversion on a 3-or-4 and 1, without resorting to quarterback sneaks, I feel this offense is not going to dominate opponents with really good defenses. They might squeak out wins, as they did this year, but those wins we all long for, where the Steelers are up 28 points at halftime and then don’t “take their foot off the gas,” are not going to come if the run blocking doesn’t improve, now that the league has figured out Bell’s style.

Now, perhaps replacing Foster would actually make Pouncey more effective. I had a look at the games Finney filled in for Foster to see if I could see any difference in Pouncey’s grades, and the answer is—hold on while I run and find out—I don’t know. Very helpful, I know. But PFF doesn’t show individual game grades after the season is over. Thanks, guys. It’s an interesting thing to speculate on, though…

And perhaps the Steelers should think about a top tight end, if there are any, along with re-signing Vance McDonald. And if they don’t sign Bell, another RB, another WR to make up for Bell’s receiving abilities, and a plan to run six O-linemen packages most of the time to make up for Bell’s blocking. Gosh, maybe he is as good as he thinks…

Which is not to say the defense doesn’t need some help. But I’m of the opinion (and what is this time of year for but to blather on about our opinions?) that shoring up the middle of the defense is about as much as the Steelers really need to do. They can move Cameron Sutton to safety (which is not a crazy idea, as these things usually are) now that Mike Hilton has pinned down the slot, draft someone inside, and hope the defense can make an occasional stop, while the offense scores on every possession.

And frankly, I think that’s about all they can do, assuming they manage to come to some accommodation with Bell, because of their salary cap issues. Part of which are due to something I will address later this week.

And as long as I’m mentioning all of the awesome things that have happened in the very recent past, I would be remiss to not mention the great news about Ryan Shazier. Which will also be addressed later in the week. But for the moment, I must return to marmalade making. I’ve made enough hay already…

9 comments

  • Great article, Rebecca. I still think that defense can win championships, and this game does not show that to be an exception, despite the record total yardage. For one thing, the Eagles didn’t stop, but they did contain Gronk, particularly early on. And of course the key play for Philly was made by their defense.

    Not saying the defense one this one for Philly (although it did get them there), just saying its still possible (think Denver 2 years ago.)

    As for the replay, as soon as I saw that play I thought, “Here we go again….” Honestly, if this was a catch/touchdown, then I don’t know why Jesse James’ wasn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were different. Ertz took 3 steps before diving in. James caught and leaned over. Both are clear catches and TDs, but only the former is by current NFL rule.

      Like

      • Thanks. I wasn’t being a smart ass with the question. As much as I hated it, when I saw the James replay I thought, “Oh, the ball did touch the ground, that’s going to be overturned. _hit.”

        Still, it makes no sense.

        Like

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Great article.

    I was reminded of Homer’s wrestling references in an earlier article. Were the Pats set up to lose? I dunno as I haven’t watched any NFL since before the Jacksonville game (pvr’d but not watched and since deleted). We really did have women’s curling on the TV in our household. At least we know there isn’t a fix involved in that.

    Like

  • Rebecca, unfortunately the good Shazier news was incorrect, as Shazier himself confirmed this morning. He isn’t actually walking yet. In my uninformed opinion, he is definitely out for 2018, and there’s a very good chance he’s played his last snap of football.

    Like

  • Looking on PFR’s game play finder, our left side defense was really strong against short passes and runs, ranking 3rd in the NFL for yards per play against those plays.
    Our right side ranked 31st, including last on outside runs by a good margin.

    The Shazier angle is that runs to the middle and short passes over the middle our defense was #1 through week 11. After week 12, we rank 31st. Best to almost worst when we replaced Shazier with Fort and Spence.

    If Shazier was gong to be coming back our number one problem would be Artie Burns terrible run support on the right side, and TJ Watt would need to improve on his rookie season.

    With Shazier not playing for us next season (barring miracle) ILB becomes a major priority.

    Like

  • First thought I had after the only defensive play in the game was BLA. Really enjoy(ed) them. For a non football fan, this SB would have been a very entertaining event, and since you know the outcome, go ahead and watch. But like I said, no D at all.
    Ertz’s catch wasn’t close enough to overturn. If they had, Philly fans would be surrounding NFL headquarters right now demanding Rodger and Al be delivered. The one they could have “explained” away was earlier (30), but my guess is they thought they’d get another chance, which would be more dramatic.
    No idea how I feel about the whole Bell thing as it’s a pretty big mess.
    Shazier on the other hand I’d like him be the one that gets to make the decision on if he plays again.

    Like

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