Reporting Steve Silverman
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The Chicago Bears have been transitioning from a defensive-oriented team to one that is focused on building an explosive offense.
That first move was the acquisition of Jay Cutler. Eventually, Phil Emery replaced Jerry Angelo as general manager and finally Marc Trestman took over as head coach from Lovie Smith.
These are all moves in the right direction. Even though the Bears’ two Super Bowl teams both featured outstanding defenses and less-than-stellar offenses, that’s not how this team is conducting itself any longer.
The Bears have joined the battle and want to have the kind of offense that can go up-and-down the field with ease and light up the scoreboard. Teams like the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots have played this way for years and they have been among the league’s most powerful teams.
The Baltimore Ravens had been a defense-oriented team for years and their 2000 team rivaled the ’85 Chicago Bears for defensive dominance. But the Ravens regularly fell short after that until they put together a team that could play overpowering football on the offensive end.
There was nothing fluky about it. Joe Flacco had a substantial deep arm and the Ravens played pinball with the scoreboard, registering 30 points or more seven times last year (including the postseason).
While the NFL is not quite Arena Football, it has been moving in that direction for years. The indoor game is a high-scoring, attacking kind of game that often features a slew of touchdowns. You score, they score, you score and they score again.
It often goes like that, and the team that can get a stop in the fourth quarter often finds a way to win.
Teams have been trying to copy what the Pats, Packers and Saints have been doing for years. The rules of the game favor the offense and when teams like the Ravens and Bears change their signature, it’s a full capitulation to the offensive style.
Teams without explosive offenses can’t win. The Vikings have the best running back in football and it took one of the best seasons in NFL history by Adrian Peterson to make the playoffs last year. Even with that, they were bounced out in the first round.
But even if the passing game has proved its dominance, two teams seem determined to bring back defensive football.
The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are likely the two best teams in football. Both teams feature dynamic quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick who are capable of leading blowouts every time they step on the field.
But both teams can dominate on the defensive end. They do it with star power and they do it with depth. Seattle has Richard Sherman, K.J.Wright, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril and Red Bryant wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. They held the 49ers to three points and they should only get better when Chris Clemons (knee) returns to the lineup.
The Niners go at it with NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis imposing their will. Those players are all imposing physical specimens who use their length, strength and power to punish opponents.
These two heated rivals are the two favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Both really came into their own when they found the right quarterbacks to lead their team and once that happened, the defenses came into focus.
There is no semblance of Arena Football when the Seahawks or 49ers play at home. Both are wrecking crews on the defensive side of the ball.
The high-scoring teams have a chance to win. Nobody is writing off the Saints, Packers or Pats. But the Seahawks and 49ers are more complete teams and they could represent a change in how NFL general managers go about building their teams from this point forward.
We hope Emery is paying attention to what these two NFC West juggernauts are doing. In the copycat NFL, it’s almost certain that he is doing just that.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.