Since the beginning of National Football League in 1922, football has been a game of 3 yards and a cloud of dust. For years the premium was put on running the ball. The key to success in this game called football was the ability of strong large man to block, tackle, and run with the football. Throwing the ball was an act of desperation. Or even worse, cowardice.
In the days of Lombardi, the league boasted runners such as Taylor and Hornug. The Cleveland Browns had Jim Brown, possibly the greatest football player in the history of the game. No matter where you looked throughout the history of the game, running the football was considered the ultimate goal. Having a player who could accomplish that goal was a premium asset.
In 1978, the NFL decided to open up the game by limiting bump and run coverage. Instead of being allowed to bump a receiver with impunity as long as the ball was not in the air. Now, a defender could only bump a receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage. After that, a defender could not make contact with a receiver and was only allowed to make a play on the ball while it was in the air. This was the beginning of modern football as we know it.
Since that time, the game of football has become more an offensive game. A game of aerial blitzkrieg. With the exception of the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, defense has almost become an afterthought in the NFL.
The 2013 Seattle Seahawks gave us pause to consider the value of defense and also allowed us to take a glimpse at what the game use to be, and, possibly what it could be in the future.
With the goal of being strong and physical, Pete Carroll and his Seahawks set out to impose their will upon their opponents and the league as a whole. Gone were the small speedy defensive backs whose job it was to chase receivers all over the field. In their place were big, strong, intimidating players such as Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell.
In the modern age of football where the forward pass is king, the Seahawks have taken a page from ole Doc Brown and Marty McFly and have gone Back to the Future.
When the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII they reminded all of us what the game is really all about. The game of football is a physical game where men try to impose their will upon their opponent. The Seahawks accomplished this with a powerful running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a defense that would bludgeon opposing offenses into submission.
Although Russell Wilson has been given a great deal of the credit for the Seahawks success, do not let all of the fanfare fool you. Lynch is the linchpin to Seattle's offensive success. It is "Beast Mode" that keeps defenses honest. You cannot afford to gamble on a blitz or bring in extra defensive backs for nickel and dime coverages to defend the pass when Lynch can pummel you by ripping of four to five yards per carry.
It is the ground attack that allows Wilson to sit in a clean pocket and wait for receivers to come open. It is the Seahawks running game that forces linebackers to cover backs out of the backfield, or, to try in vain to cover receivers in the slot.
As time moves on Wilson will be asked to shoulder more of the responsibility. There will come a time where the game will rest on his shoulders. But for now, he has the luxury of leaving the heavy lifting to Lynch and the greatest defense the NFL has seen in almost fifteen years.
Will the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl Champions? I doubt it. It is one thing to be the hunter. It is something completely different to be the hunted. Success will depend on the health of Lynch, the continued strength of their defense, along with the growth of Wilson.
With all of that being said it is nice, if only for a brief moment to see the game of football being played the way it was intended, so many years ago.
It may not be three yards and a cloud of dust, but it is as close to what football was meant to be.