Monday, February 03, 2014

Physicality Wins Postseason NFL Football

Well, it at least helps a lot. The last three Super Bowls have been won by the Seahawks (last night) preceded by the Ravens, and the Giants. Non of these three squads would be what you call finesse football teams. They all featured physical, strong defenses, and more or less older-school offenses. All three champions' offenses could run the ball - with the Giants and Ravens also specializing in the deep ball, while Russell Wilson is a bit more of a "West Coast" offense guy, who is still a very physical with his ability to run and throw absolute bullets on shorter passes.

Let's just ignore the physicality of the defenses, which is somewhat obvious, and look at the quarterbacks for a minute. Wilson, Flacco, and Eli Manning were all relatively younger guys, with Eli, at 31, the oldest of the three. Tom Brady last won the Super Bowl when he was 27. Granted, he's been in a couple Super Bowls since, but it seems that in general youth prevails in the playoffs these days. Aaron Rogers, Ben Roethlesberger and Aaron Rogers have both enjoyed tremendous postseason success under 30, and while Payton Manning and Drew Brees seemed like veterans when they won their Super Bowl titles, each was still only 30. (Going back 10 years, you start to run into Brad Johnson and John Elway, who were older, so we'll restrict our argument to the last 10 years.)

Colin Kapernick probably needs to be mentioned here, as well. After somewhat struggling, as Wilson did, during the 2013 regular season, Kapernick acquitted himself nicely with two wins in the playoffs - and, in light of the Super Bowl, the close loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game cemented the contention that the 49ers were the second best team in the NFL this year. Kapernick is interesting because he is a very athletic quaterback who was chosen as the the starter over the less athletic, but solid Alex Smith. While Smith was let go and enjoyed a fine regular season with the Chiefs (probably better statistically that Kapernick's), his team was one-and-done in the playoffs, while Kapernick's went 3-1 for the second straight year. Russell Wilson, meanwhile, is now 4-1 in the playoffs for his short career.

Bottom line is that the key to playoff/ultimate success in the current version of the NFL seems to be a strong, physical defense, and a strong, younger, physical quarterback. Which isn't really too different when you think about from the formula the Stillers used to win four Super Bowls back in the 1970s.

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