Yes, the NFL, with its rules ridiculously skewed toward the offense, is a quarterback-driven league.
But as we learned this past weekend, defenses still can win – or lose – championships.
Look at the number the Giants and 49ers defenses did against the high-flying Packers and Saints. The G-Men battered league-MVP Aaron Rodgers, sacking the Green Bay QB four times and forcing him to turn it over twice (fumble and interception.) The Niners, meanwhile, derailed Saints record-setter Drew Brees, delivering a number of crunching blows to him and his running backs and receivers while taking the ball away five times.
And the Packers’ and Saints’ defensive deficiencies were dramatically exposed by Eli Manning and the up-and-coming Alex Smith. It really underscored just what great seasons Rodgers and Brees had to have in order to compensate for their respective "D's."
I have to keep reminding myself that Tom Brady – who’s playing quarterback as well as anyone ever has – lasted till the sixth round of the draft. And let’s not forget that for all his football genius, Patriots coach Bill Belichick also passed on Tom Terrific for five rounds.
What Jim Harbaugh has done this season with the 49ers is one of THE best coaching jobs I’ve ever seen. His development of the beleaguered Smith into a serviceable quarterback has been astonishing. The former No. 1 overall pick looked like Joe Montana during those final minutes of Saturday’s stunning upset of New Orleans.
My early picks for this week: Giants 23, Niners 16 and Patriots 27, Ravens 13. That, of course, would set up a rematch of the Super Bowl from four years ago.
I think another Super Bowl title would guarantee Giants coach Tom Coughlin a bust in Canton. You can already make a case for him, when you combine the success he’s had with the Giants with the job he did in building the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars into an AFC powerhouse in just two years. His 142 victories put him among the Top 20 winningest coaches in NFL history, and he has five divisional titles to go along with four conference championship appearances.
Shifting gears, I’ll be covering tonight’s SU-Pitt basketball game at the Carrier Dome for WROC TV-8 (you can read more about it tomorrow on their website at www.rochesterhomepage.net). Although the Panthers have won five straight in the series, I believe the deep and talented Orange will prevail against a Pitt team that has been hurt by injury and has badly underachieved. The win would give the Cuse a school-best 20-0 start and enable Jim Boeheim to tie Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp for the fourth-most victories among men’s Division I college basketball coaches.