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NFL rule makers need to stop punishing defenses

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If you are an owner in the NFL right now it is fair to say you are living the dream. The NFL is like a slot machine that always pays out.

Last season the teams split a record $6 billion in profit, at the start of October the league agreed a new eight year deal with DirectTV that increased yearly revenues by 50% and it seems they are giving serious consideration to bringing franchises to both London and LA, two mass media markets.

Bringing a Knife to a Bazooka-fight

There are problems however, the NFL has been rocked by its response to the Ray Rice scandal and the new regimented testing for steroid abuse will, sadly, at some point make headlines. A less serious, but more sports based problem, is the growing imbalance between offense and defense.

Since the turn of the millennium NFL offenses have been throwing for more and more yards and scoring more and more points. This came to a head last season as Manning's Broncos offense became the highest scoring offense in league history.

Things have become even tougher this season. Referees are cracking down on the 'dark arts' of defense. Compared to weeks 1 to 5 last season penalties for defensive holding have doubled and illegal contact calls have almost quadrupled. The stress on pass interference means that corners, safety's and linebackers literally cannot play defense in the way they were taught anymore.

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Unsurprisingly, offenses are making hay whilst the sun shines. Last weekend Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Foles and Andrew Luck threw for over 400 yards and Tom Brady threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions, completing 30 out of 35 throws. With figures like this it isn't absurd to ask if defenses have a chance anymore? In total last Sunday "teams gained the fourth-most yardage ever on average in a single day". Even more startlingly "two of the top four yardage weeks in league history have occurred this season".

No Going Back

Many of the old tactics and rules that made defense competitive against the offense are gone forever. Leading with the helmet in tackling for example, is gone forever due to concussion concerns.

More crucially, the same is true for the rules regarding pass interference. The owners of the NFL franchises are enjoying record profits from bigger and bigger audiences and these profits are tied in with fans who enjoy fantasy points and quarterbacks throwing ever more spectacular touchdowns.

The thinking is then that fans don't want to see offenses shutdown by dominant defenses and so owners are going to make sure it doesn't happen. What owners need to understand however, is sport is only fun when it is a competition.

Football is only worth watching when defenses have a chance and at the moment it is looking more and more like defenses are bringing a knife to a bazooka fight. 

Intentional Grounding

Any change favoring defense then won't get passed if it stops Brees, Manning and Brady from making spectacular throws and it also needs to be sold as something that will get the casual fans excited.

Fortunately, there is one rule that if more strictly applied would do just this. The NFL needs to crack down on quarterbacks who ground the ball intentionally or simply just throw the ball away to avoid the sack and loss of yards.

It happens at least a couple of times every NFL game. The defense finally gets after the QB, it's going to be a bone crunching sack setting up a third and long. Instead of losing the yards though the savvy quarterback just throws the ball away in such a manner that no receiver or defender could even close to catching the ball.

If the NFL were to crackdown on this it would go a small way to getting the defense back into the game without stopping QB's throwing the ball. As a bonus fans would get to enjoy more bone crunching hits. Save for the quarterbacks everyone is a winner!


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