The 3rd Down Blues
With the 2 biggest names of Super Bowl 45 belonging to the Quarterbacks, it’s the defenses that will be on full display on the biggest Sunday of them all. Last year’s game saw an underdog New Orleans Saints dominate the second half and while history will show that Drew Brees was much of the reason why, it was his defense that made the key plays to change momentum that in all likelyhood changed the outcome of the game. A key 3rd and 1 stop late in the 2nd quarter is lost in the history books while everybody still remembers Tracy Porter running down the field returning an interception for a touchdown and sealing the game. I can guarantee you I do. While Tracy put points on the board with his pick 6, that key 3rd down stop earned them 1 last position before halftime that they turned into a field goal. Do they still attempt an onside kick at the beginning of the second half already down a touchdown? It’s big stops like that 3rd in 1 that change history and with 2 Quarterbacks very capable of converting on 3rd down, the defenses in this game must limit these drive extending conversions. One of the more underrated pieces to winning football is not only time of possession but how many possessions you as an offense are given. The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the AFC championship with a 10 minute drive that resulted in a touchdown. The Steelers did to the Jets what the Jets were able to do to the Patriots and the Colts; forced them to match score for score because when you know you won’t see the ball often you may get desperate and make the mistake they’re looking for. Possessions are huge when playing a team like the Steelers so the Packers must convert on 3rd down and keep their offense on the field. Aaron Rodgers has opened each of his last 2 playoff games with masterful touchdown drives and must look to do the same thing Sunday. As the Jets found out, a slow start against this Steelers defense could be too much to overcome. The Arizona Cardinals came out of the gates just as slow 2 years ago in Super Bowl 43 and found themselves in a 10-0 hole. Stalled drives aren’t the goal but converting 1 or 2 first downs on any given drive could change field position and make the difference in the tight ball game we all expect to see. Last year’s Indianapolis Colts experienced terrible starting field position throughout averaging a starting field position of the 16 yard line. These long fields coupled with a limited amount of possessions puts too much pressure on the offense. Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has enjoyed incredible field position for much of his career as his playoff touchdown drives average out to less than 60 yards per drive. In the end, it’ll be a game of turnovers with both defenses showing the ability to get the key turnover when it needs it most. Every Analyst will tell you that this a passing league and with that the old line “defense wins championships” has seemed to slowly go away. These 2 football teams show that defense still wins championships. The Green Bay Packers defense has closed out each of their playoff victorys. The Atlanta Falcons game was a blow out on the scoreboard but that game ended as Tramon Williams returned a Matt Ryan interception to the house. Their counterparts, the Pittsburgh Steelers, printed their home field playoff tickets when Troy Polamalu hit Joe Flacco clean forcing a fumble and winning the game in Baltimore. Rodgers and Roethlisberger will be the most important players on that field come Sunday but the truth is that defense does still win championships. If the Green Bay Packer’s don’t want Roethlisberger to get fitted for his 3rd ring, they must succeed on 3rd down.