During the 2012 regular season, 11 NFL quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards. Through the 2008 season, only two quarterbacks in league history had ever thrown for more than 5,000 in a single season — Dan Marino with 5,084 in 1984 and Drew Brees with 5,069 in 2008. Then, in 2011, Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all threw for over 5,000 yards. Eli Manning just missed the mark with 4,933.
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Statistics would tell you that the game is changing and offense is taking over. The Ravens and the 49ers would tell you that we’re still watching the same old NFL, and defense still wins championships.
The Guardian recently examined the spending habits of all 32 NFL teams for the 2012 season, and the numbers show that 17 teams spent more money on defense than they did on offense. Of the 12 teams that made the playoffs in both the NFC and AFC, exactly half dedicated more of their salary cap dollars to defense than offense. Two of those teams remain standing, and their overall numbers are strikingly similar.
The Ravens dedicated $64 million to their defense this season, which is the fifth-highest amount in the NFL. The Niners spent $61.4 million on that side of the ball, which places them seventh in the league. San Francisco also ranked in the top 10 in offensive spending with $58.5 million, while Baltimore came in it 23rd with $49.1 million.
In an era where spread offenses and empty backfields have taken over, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome and San Francisco GM Trent Baalke have decided to place an emphasis on defense. Their approach has carried them over some of the best offenses in the league in Green Bay and New England and all the way to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. Finesse and scoring may lead to wins in the regular season, but the two teams in the Super Bowl have proven that smash-mouth football and stout defense can still prevail come playoff time.