Monday, January 17, 2022
Jan. 17, 2022

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Micah Rice: Stingy defenses are stars of show

By , Columbian Sports Editor

Don’t mourn the demise of defense in the National Football League just yet.

Tonight’s tussle between feathered foes is a heavyweight bout with the NFC West belt likely on the line.

Beyond playoff implications, the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals offer another reason to watch: Stingy, bruising defenses.

Count me in.

Seattle has allowed a league-low 272.4 yards per game. Its 17.3 points allowed per game is second only to Detroit. Arizona is right behind at 17.4 points per game.

Some people like shootouts, but there’s an allure in watching a game where points are hard to come by. I’ll take quality over quantity any day.

Both Seattle and Arizona have won by bludgeoning opponents in an age where the NFL has tried to limit physical play and enhance scoring.

You can’t hit a quarterback high. You can’t hit a quarterback low. You can’t hit a receiver with any force required to jar a catch loose.

After last Sunday’s smothering of San Francisco, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said it’s impossible to compare Seattle’s defense to the historically great 1985 Chicago Bears or Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain of the 1970s.

“I wish we could end that conversation,” Sherman said. “It’s always great to be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys. But they played by a different set of rules. They didn’t have the holding calls, the illegal touching. You could hit the quarterback has hard as you want. That intimidation factor played a big role in what they could do.”

Safety is important in the NFL. There is no shortage of tragic stories about players dealing with debilitating effects of multiple concussions. That’s why helmet-to-helmet hits should continue to be illegal and subject to financial penalties.

But only the most biased Seahawks fan would say the roughing-the-passer penalty that preceded Seattle’s fourth-quarter touchdown last week wasn’t a ticky-tack call.

Referee Ed Hochuli explained that San Francisco’s Nick Moody was flagged for hitting Russell Wilson in the chest with the hairline of his helmet. It’s a well-meaning rule actually meant to protect defenders. But if Moody’s hit was illegal, so too are about one quarter of the tackles in any game.

It’s a shame when rigid, dogmatic interpretation of otherwise well-meaning rules interferes with the players deciding the outcome of a game.

Six days earlier on Monday Night Football, New England cornerback Brandon Browner was flagged for a crushing hit on San Diego’s Ladarius Green, a penalty that negated a interception returned for a touchdown. Though he was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit, replays showed that Browner delivered the blow with his shoulder.

Penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits should be subject to review and overturned if the contact was not with the helmet.

So tonight, sit back and enjoy some hard-nosed football. Monday morning. let’s hope we aren’t talking about a dubious penalty that decided the game.