About this time last year I wrote a column proclaiming the virtues of a good offense over a good defense. I was talking about the Raiders and the Buccaneers squaring off in Super Bowl XXXVII, and we all know how that one turned out. Tampa Bay’s ‘D’ scored just as many points as the Raider’s offense in the 48-21 mauling of hapless Oakland. And I stood corrected.This year, I’m not going to make the same mistake. Of course this year there are two football teams that stress strong defense going up against each other in Super Bowl XXXVIII, so the question really is not relevant. The point is, however, that I’ve learnt my lesson. Defense wins championships. How else do you explain Bill Russell’s 11 NBA Championship rings versus Wilt Chamberlain’s single ring? Chamberlain got most of the attention for his offensive exploits, but Russell was the one who simply kept winning.
During the last few years of the English First Division (it was to morph into the English Premiership in 1992), Arsenal became renowned for having one of the best defenses in the League. “1-0 to the Arsenal” became a popular chant, and Arsenal won two league titles in a three-year span. Similarly the marvelous Liverpool run in the 70s and 80s was founded on a strong defense.
The moral of the story is, therefore, that a high-powered offense is not a guarantee for victory. The Panthers knocked out the Rams (“The Greatest Show on Turf”) in the Dome. The Patriots put the hurt on Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning seemed to be unconscious in the Colts’ first two playoff wins, but neither of those games were against the number one rated defense in the NFL. Manning finished with his lowest QB rating of the year, as the Patriot’s defense established an early superiority that it never relinquished.
So who do I like for Super Bowl XXXVIII? Sentimentality makes me want to root for the Panthers, but I just can’t get past that Patriot’s defense. I don’t think the Panthers will be able to get pass that defense either.