Offense now king in NFL -- here's why Bears GM Poles should take note
Defense wins championships. Or so they say.
In the NFL, it seems this is an adage from a bygone age. You know, the one where the Steelers dominated in the 1970s, the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985 and the Giants, Niners, Cowboys and Redskins combined to win 13 titles from 1982-96.
While some of those teams had prolific offenses, we often forget how difficult it was to score against those dynamic defenses.
In the modern NFL, teams need to put many points on the board if they hope to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
This season is a wonderful example -- and if Bears GM Ryan Poles is smart he'd put a heavy emphasis on giving Justin Fields as many weapons as possible in the coming years.
Let's take a closer look at the four teams that advanced to the conference title games and show why the Bears can't afford to be mediocre offensively if they want to break a nearly four-decade championship drought.
Chiefs (14-3, 29.2 ppg):
In Kansas City's 23-20 win over Cincinnati on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes put the team on his back and willed them to Super Bowl 57. With almost half of his offense in triage, Mahomes still managed to complete 29 of 43 passes for 326 yards.
The two biggest plays? That's easy.
• With the Chiefs leading 6-3 and less than five minutes remaining until halftime, coach Andy Reid went for a fourth-and-1 from the Bengals' 14-yard line. Mahomes made the move pay off by finding Travis Kelce for a touchdown.
• After the Cincinnati tied it at 13-13 early in the third quarter, Mahomes drove KC to the Bengals' 19, but then faced a third-and-10. No worries. Mahomes simply stepped up in the collapsing pocket and -- just before getting whacked -- fired a laser to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a TD.
We all know Mahomes (5,250 passing yards, 41 TD passes, 358 rush yards) was the catalyst behind Kansas City's prolific offensive. But it helps to have one of the best TEs in history in Kelce (110 catches, 1,338 yards) and a reliable veteran WR like JuJu Smith-Schuster (78-933). Also, Valdes-Scantling averaged 16.4 yards on 42 catches.
The Chiefs scored 24-plus points in all but three of their regular-season games, a truly remarkable feat.
Bengals (12-4, 26.1 ppg):
Cincinnati had a difficult time dealing with the noise at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. False starts, holding penalties and an intentional grounding call cost the Bengals 38 yards and may have been the difference.
In the big picture, however, Cincinnati is blessed with one of the league's top quarterbacks in Joe Burrow, two wildly talented wide receivers in Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins, one of the better possession WRs in Tyler Boyd and an all-around RB in Joe Mixon. Those four combined to catch 279 passes for 3,278 yards and 23 TDs.
It's no wonder Cincinnati averaged 28 points in the final 11 regular-season games. The Bengals aren't going away and will be a Super Bowl contender for years to come.
Eagles (14-3, 28.1 ppg):
Philadelphia advanced to the Super Bowl by putting up 31 points against San Francisco, which had the NFL's No. 1 defense. Now, granted, much of that had to do with the fact that San Francisco only had the ball for 22½ because of Brock Purdy's injury.
But two plays on the first drive illustrate how important it is to have world-class wide receivers.
• Facing third-and-8 from their own 48, QB Jalen Hurts was immediately under siege as the Niners sent an all-out blitz. Off his back foot, Hurts delivered a low, yet on-target pass to A.J. Brown that netted 10 yards.
• Then, on fourth-and-3, Hurts tossed a rainbow down the sideline that DeVonta Smith hauled in for 29 yards.
Two plays later, it was 7-0.
Brown (88 catches, 1,496 yards, 11 TDs), Smith (95-1,196-7) and TE Dallas Goedert (55-702-3) accounted for nearly 3,400 of Philadelphia's 4,364 passing yards. Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown's totals don't even equal Brown's.
Think about that.
And it's not like the Eagles can't run. Miles Sanders and Hurts combined for 2,029 yards on the ground.
These weapons are a big reason why Philly only failed to score 20 points twice and went over 34 a whopping six times.
San Fran (13-4, 26.5 ppg):
For those who believe teams must take a QB in the first round, think again. The Niners used Jimmy Garoppolo (62nd overall pick in 2014) and Brock Purdy (the final pick of the 2022 draft) for all but one game this season.
Yet, the Niners thrived thanks to versatile weapons like Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.
Samuel is technically a wide receiver, but carried the ball 42 times in 13 games; McCaffrey is a running back, but caught 52 passes in 11 games; Kittle is one of the league's most versatile tight ends and caught 60 passes for 765 yards and 11 TDs; Aiyuk finished with career highs in catches (78), yards (1,015) and TDs (8).
It's easy to see why the Niners racked up 27 or more points nine times despite losing starting QB Trey Lance for the season in Week 2.
• • •
So see? Difference makers make a difference.
A big difference.
So go get 'em, Mr. Poles.
Then your team can finally climb the slippery, elusive pole known as the NFC Central standings.