Beeline: It’s getting harder and harder to play defense in the NFL

Spinnaker

Imagine trying to do a job but your boss is making everything about it impossible. That has got to be how NFL defenders are feeling. Over the year, the league has made it more and more difficult to play defense by making rule changes that favor the offense in almost every facet of the game. I struggle to find a rule in the NFL that favors a defensive player.

Sure, fans love high scoring. It’s what sells, and I get that. I know everyone loves a good, old-fashioned shootout. But I miss the defense. One of my favorite games I have ever been to was the Jaguars’ 9-0 win over the Steelers. In that game, the Jaguars kicked three field goals, but their defense was tenacious. Oh, how things have changed.

Let’s look at some of the aspects of the game that have changed to favor the offense.

Start with pass rushing and hitting the quarterback. Quarterbacks are the franchise players. They are players that these teams have invested the most money in, so I understand to a certain extent why the NFL is trying to protect them. But it has gotten to the point to where they might as well be wearing flags around their waist because defensive players are getting fined more and more for hits on the quarterbacks.

You can’t hit them too low. Tom Brady has changed the game so much. Pretty Boy Brady got hurt two seasons ago on the first week of the season when a defensive player rolled underneath him, tackled him and tore his ACL. He was out for the season. God forbid. It is a physical game. Injuries happen. But when the Golden Child gets hurt, the league has to figure a way to make sure that never happens again.

So now a defensive player will get flagged if they try to tackle to quarterback while still being on the ground. They are pretty much saying give up on the play because in the NFL plays happen so fast that a player would not have time to get up and make a play. Advantage offense.

You can’t hit them too high. Stay away from helmet defenders. Not only could you be flagged, but you could be facing a fine, as well. I agree to a certain extent with this rule. You can’t have guys punching players in the back of the head or ripping facemasks around and breaking necks.

But sometimes accidents happen. You have to look at the situation and see if it warrants a penalty. In the this year’s Colts vs. Eagles game in Week Nine, a sack and fumble of Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning on fourth down that would have essentially ended the game, was called back because an Eagles defensive end Trent Cole grazed the back of Manning’s helmet. I’m talking four fingers swept it while he was trying to make a play on the ball.

One unnecessary roughness penalty and 15 yards later, the Colts kept possession and drove and scored a touchdown to come within two points of the Eagles. The Eagles still won the game, but the Colts should have never gotten that chance to make it a closer game. The graze of Manning’s helmet did not deserve a penalty. It was inadvertent and caused no damage to Manning. But you can’t touch the quarterback in the NFL.

This brings up the whole helmet-to-helmet and defenseless receiver issue that has dominated the NFL this season. I understand again that the player’s safety does come first and if you catch a head-hunting safety trying to end guy’s careers as to go across the middle, then I say don’t stop and suspend them, but kick them out of the league.

With these two rules, it needs to come down to intent. But it doesn’t. The NFL is a very fast game. Things happen in a split second. If a defender lowers his pads to make a tackle, and the offensive player bends down to brace for the hit and cover the ball, a lot of times that will result in helmets clashing.

That results in unnecessary roughness penalties, even if it was inadvertent. In that same Colts vs. Eagles game, Eagles safety Kurt Coleman was flagged for a hit on Colts’ receiver Austin Collie that happened exactly like that. It was clear there was no intent on Coleman’s side to injure the receiver. He went low first. However, he got flagged for 15 yards.

It should be a case-by-case basis. Don’t just say, “Oh, I saw two helmets touch each other, so I have to throw a flag.” Guys are getting punished for bad reasons, and the NFL needs to look at that rule and change it. Again, if a guy torpedoes himself upward, leading with his helmet, with no intent but knock an offensive player out, then lay the disciplinary hammer down on him.

I would argue fans love hard-hitting more the high-scoring offenses. Otherwise the Arena Football League would dominate the ratings because their scores remind me of basketball games. The NFL was built of tough, hard-nosed defenses, and they can’t lose that. Wake up, NFL. Let them play.