I’m going to say something that might upset some of my friends in and around the business who have spent time coaching, but enough is enough. The NFL has an epidemic right now that is plaguing the end of games. Perhaps this is recency bias from seeing how the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons lost this past weekend, but someone has to be brave enough to tell the truth — and the truth is that some of these defensive coordinators get too soft at the end of games.
I’ll admit, this is mostly an aesthetic preference. Very few teams give large cushions to receivers all game long, but when it comes to the end of games, when defenses need to get off the field to prevent a field goal or a touchdown, the strategy gets soft. It makes sense to try to keep offensive players in front of you and inbounds to milk the clock, but offenses in the NFL are so precise now that allowing them to play pitch-and-catch down the field and hoping you beat the clock is a tougher strategy to employ.
Tom Brady might not be at the peak of his powers anymore, but he’s still more than good enough to get down the field when defenses are giving 7 or 8 yards of cushion and fail to cover routes on the backend.
Justin Herbert has one of the strongest arms in the league and was able to pick apart Atlanta’s zone with ease on two critical drives, one of them a game-winner thanks to the fumble that ended up not hurting the Chargers because the Falcons fumbled their own fumble return.
These quarterbacks are too good and the offenses are too well-coached to think that the old ways of doing things are going to work.
So, I have a decree that my defensive-minded coaches should listen to: force the action more in these end-of-game situations. I’m not saying you have to go full Gregg Williams and try to drop a nuclear bomb on the pocket out of Cover 0, but we can start off with more press coverage. Force the action, don’t let the bad guys win by playing soft at the most critical part of the game. You don’t have to sit back with eight guys in coverage and pray you can stop world-class athletes without getting a hand on them — weaponize your own world-class athletes!
I know this is going to get pushback, but it would make for a more entertaining final product as well. Let the defenders defend. And if you disagree with that, you can meet me at the logo. I’ll rush six, you rush three. Let’s see who wins.