Sunday, November 19, 2017
Around the NFL 12/23/11
By Jason Lewis (Sports Editor)
Published December 23, 2011

It is tough to get the ball into the endzone when the ball carrier gets flipped upside down.  That must be the San Francisco 49ers trick to not allow a rushing touchdown all season long.  Photo by Jeff Lewis

By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor

Defense wins championships; 49ers have one, Packers, Saints, and Patriots do not

The old cliché that defense wins champions is pretty much true.  That does not mean that teams with the best defenses will win it all, but usually teams who play great offense but no defense do not win the Super Bowl. 

The San Francisco 49ers are serviceable on offense, which teams such as the Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots have won Super Bowls with.  Similar to those teams, the 49ers are lights out on defense.

The 49ers are first in the league in fewest points per game given up, and they lead the league in rushing defense.  This past Monday night, when the 49ers smothered the Pittsburgh Steelers all night long in a 20-3 victory, the 49ers became the first team ever to not allow a rushing touchdown through the first 14 games of the season. 

The Packers, Saints, and Patriots look like they are the hottest teams in the league right now, and all three are lighting up the scoreboard.  But the Patriots are last in total defense, the Packers are second to last, and the Saints are 24th. 

Highflying offenses do great in the regular season, but Super Bowl championship teams play tough defense and they limit the turnovers on offense.  The 49ers have turned the ball over the fewest times in the league this season, and they are 2nd in takeaways.  They are a +21 in giveaway/takeaway, which is the best in the league.  That, along with a great defense, is what wins Super Bowls over highflying offensive teams who play poor defense. 

Los Angeles running backs running wild in Florida

Reggie Bush (USC), left, is on the verge of rushing for more than 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, while Maurice Jones-Drew (UCLA) leads the league in rushing and has gone over 1,300 yards for the third year in a row.  Photos by Jeff Lewis

Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew (UCLA) and Miami Dolphins Reggie Bush (USC) are not getting much press because they play for lousy teams, but they are both putting up big time numbers.

Jones-Drew sees the most nine-man defensive fronts than any other running back in the league because he is the Jaguars only legitimate offensive threat.  But even with all the attention that he has attracted, he still leads the league in rushing with 1,334 yards. 

Through six seasons, all with the Jaguars, Jones-Drew has rushed for 6,582 yards and 61 touchdowns, and in each of the last three seasons he has rushed for over 1,300 yards. 

Jones-Drew has had a similar career to St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.  Both players do not have much around them, and everybody in the stadium knows they are getting the ball, but they still produce on a high level. 

It is no surprise that Jones-Drew continues to produce on a high level, but it is a surprise to see Bush finally take the role of a featured back and excel in that role. 

Most critics thought that Bush would struggle in that role, even coming out of college.  Bush did not do much to shut anybody up in his five years with the Saints, but this year, even though he’s flying under the radar, nobody is questioning him now. 

So far Bush has 973 rushing yards on the season, which is by far his career high.  Before this season the most that he had rushed for in one season was 581 yards, which was his second season in the league. 

Leading into this season, Bush had rushed for only 2,090 yards, which was an average of 418 yards per season.  In his first season as a featured back with the Dolphins, he could double his best season of his career. 

It is interesting to look back at these two running backs in college.  Some people believed that Jones-Drew was just as good of a running back as Bush was while they were in college, but Jones-Drew took a back seat to Bush as he was winning national championships and a Heisman Trophy at USC, while Jones-Drew played for UCLA teams that struggled to make bowl games. 

If the two players would have switched schools way back then, USC would have won just as many games, and UCLA would have still struggled. 

Raiders need help to make the playoffs

The Oakland Raiders had a golden opportunity to tie the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West, but they were unable to hold on to a 13-point fourth quarter lead.  Photo by Ric Tapia

As the New England Patriots were giving the Denver Broncos their first loss in a month and a half, the Oakland Raiders were on their way to a victory over the Detroit Lions and a tie for first place in the AFC West. 

When Aaron Curry returned a fumble for a six-yard touchdown with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Raiders held a 13-point lead and it looked like they would end their two game losing streak. 

But the Lions caught fire, scored two late fourth quarter touchdowns, and walked out of Oakland with a 28-27 victory, keeping the Raiders in second place with only two games to go.  

The loss hurt the Raiders back because now they are going to need to win their remaining games against the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, and they are going to need the Broncos to lose their games against the Buffalo Bills and the Chiefs. 

The Bills are on a five game losing streak, so the Broncos could clinch the division next week with a win.  But a loss could make the final week of the regular season very interesting.  Heading into this coming week’s games, all four AFC West teams have a shot to win the division, and if the Broncos lose on Sunday, the division could be wide open for a crazy finish on the final Sunday of the regular season. 

The Raiders could be in the drivers seat if they did not go on this late season slump.  Over this three game losing streak the Raiders defense has given up an average of 36 points per game, while quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown five interceptions. 

The Raiders gave up a first and a second round draft pick for Palmer, which is a hefty price for a quarterback who has not been considered elite for a number of years.  It is tough to judge him on this season, because he joined the team at midseason, but he has throw 13 interceptions to only nine touchdowns, and he is only completing 56.2 percent of his passes, the lowest of his career. 

Palmer’s 70.8 quarterback rating is the second lowest of his career, and if he struggles over the final two games of the season, he could end up worse than the lowest of his career, which was 69.0 in 2008. 

Heading into next year, with a full offseason and training camp, if Palmer plays well next season then it was a good trade.  But if he struggles again, then the Cincinnati Bengals got over big time over the Raiders.   

In the NFL everybody wins and everybody loses

Only two teams have beaten the rule.  The 1972 Dolphins won the Super Bowl with a 17-0 record, and the 2008 Detroit Lions ran the table in reverse, finishing 0-16. 

Either of those feats are difficult in the NFL, which the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts proved this past Sunday. 

With a schedule full of NFL teams, it is nearly impossible to win every week, especially with parity.  The elite teams are not that much better than the bottom feeders, so anything can happen.  Which happened when the Packers lost to the Chiefs.

Every team obviously has NFL players, so it is nearly unthinkable to not win a single game.  The Colts were on their way to a winless season, but they took it to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Packers are still the favorites, but watch out for the New Orleans Saints, and the Colts are still the front-runners for the Andrew Luck pick. 

One thing that can be taken from the Colts horrible season is that Peyton Manning is more valuable to the Colts than Tom Brady is to the Patriots.  When Brady missed an entire season the Patriots still won 11 games.  This season the Colts escaped the embarrassment of a winless season. 


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