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|01-18-2011, 06:17 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Bires: Four-boding defenses
Bires: Four-boding defenses
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
Monday January 17, 2011 11:55 PM
New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, left, pretends to interview teammate Trevor Pryce at the team's training facility in Florham Park, N.J. AP photo by Julio Cortez
PITTSBURGH — As the New Orleans Saints proved last year, defense doesn’t always win championships.
With Drew Brees flinging the ball at will, the Saints led the NFL in several offensive categories en route to winning the Super Bowl. It didn’t matter that their defense ranked 25th.
This year, however, it’s all about defense.
None of the teams that excelled offensively are still standing. Those juggernauts have all since been taken out.
The NFL’s version of the Final Four this year features teams that can get after it defensively.
The AFC Championship between the Steelers and New York Jets features defenses ranked Nos. 1 and 6 in fewest points allowed.
The NFC Championship between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears features defenses ranked Nos. 2 and 4.
“Defense is clearly important unless you have a team that will outscore everybody you play,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “That’s what New England was doing for awhile.”
For the last eight games of the regular season, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense lit up scoreboards just like Brees and the Saints did a year ago. For eight straight weeks, Brady posted passer ratings of 107.0 or better. For eight straight weeks, the Pats scored 31 points or more.
But on Sunday against the Jets’ swarming defense, the Brady Bunch was done in. Giselle’s hubby was sacked five times. He threw an interception for the first time since Oct. 17 and his passer rating was 89.0.
In their stunning 28-21 upset win, the Jets allowed only a field goal until the Pats finally scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
Defense allowed the Jets to pull off the most stunning upset of the season.
In Green Bay’s 48-21 rout of the Atlanta Falcons a day earlier, Aaron Rogers put on a brilliant display, passing for 366 yards and three TDs. But the Pack defense was outstanding, too, with four takeaways. Matt Ryan was sacked four times and intercepted twice, including once for a 70-yard pick six.
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Of course, everyone saw what the Steelers’ defense did to the Ravens in the second half Saturday with three third-quarter takeaways that turned a 21-7 halftime deficit into a 31-24 win.
“It was time for us to make our plays, and we did,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “When you make plays on defense, you’re going to come out on top.”
Defensively, the Steelers, Jets, Packers and Bears each have at least one megastar.
Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews and Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers will each get their share of votes for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
New York cornerback Darrelle Revis isn’t one of the top contenders for that award. That’s because he’s so good at what he does that teams seldom throw in his direction. But the Aliquippa native has no peers when it comes to pass coverage.
On their teams, Polamalu, Revis, Matthews and Peppers are surrounded by outstanding defenders who do their jobs well.
The Steelers, Packers and Bears each have three defenders named to the Pro Bowl. It’s Polamalu, linebacker James Harrison and D-end Brett Keisel for the Steelers; Matthews, cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins for the Packers; and Peppers and linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher for the Bears.
Revis is the only Jet defender selected for this year’s Pro Bowl. But the Jets have five other defensive players who’ve played in the NFL’s all-star game in recent years.
“You need to be solid on defense,” Clark said.
The Steelers, Jets, Packers and Bears are better than solid defensively. They’re great, and that’s why they still have a shot to win it all.
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