Where have Packers, Saints and other great offenses gone?
All sorts of passing records were set in the NFL this season, yet many of the quarterbacks who set them are watching the playoffs from their couches. So how is it that high-flying teams like Green Bay, New Orleans and Detroit failed to reach the conference championship round?
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl as Baltimore's quarterback, offered an interesting theory this week on how defenses have caught up to offenses at this point in the season.
Dilfer reasons that defenses have a larger volume of material to study on an opponent now, so offenses have a harder time disguising what they do with "smoke and mirrors."
"You look at the Saints and you look at the Packers, and you look at some of the really good offensive teams, even the Patriots, they smoke-and-mirror you as good as anybody," Dilfer said. "At this time of the year, you've kind of shown your bag of tricks. You've shown the 78 formations you've used and the different personnel groupings and the down-and-distance tendencies, and you've shown your tempo packages.
"You've kind of put everything out there on the table, and now you get a defensive staff and smart defensive football players that can break you down during the week, and by Thursday or Friday they go, 'Wait a second, I see what they're doing. All they're really doing is running 15 or 20 different plays, but they're dressing them up a bunch of different ways, but here's some commonalities in them.'
"I remember going into games, and we really thought we were going to trick some people and do some new stuff, and the defense is calling out your plays before you run them."
-- Sam Farmer
Photo: Tom Hauck / Allsport.