MNF’s ‘Clash of the Titans’ Showed the Future of the NFL

November 19, 2018, gave us a spectacle that can be considered the greatest regular season NFL game, let alone the greatest Monday Night Football game (from almost 800 MNF broadcasts), ever. And it’s not hyperbole.

The game was hyped all week as the best game of the season because it was a matchup of two 9-1 teams in the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs who possess valid claims as the top offense in the NFL.

And to say it delivered would be an understatement. It went beyond the hype, finishing in a back-and-forth 54-51 victory for Los Angeles that had a bit of everything.

It was the third-most total points scored in a single game and the first time where both teams scored at least 50 points. There were 1,001 yards of total offense and 14 total touchdowns.

There were seven total turnovers (five from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes) which came in the form of interceptions, pick-sixes, strip-sacks, fumbles returned for touchdowns, etc.

The battle of two of the NFL’s two powerhouses included some of the game’s brightest stars doing “star things” and two of the best coaches in the business.

And like the Titans ultimately gave way to the Olympians, this matchup was the unofficial official changing of the guard in the NFL.

It pitted the two brightest young quarterbacks, in Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes, against each other. Two passers, along with Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, who are poised to take the mantle from the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger when they retire.

We are in a new age in the NFL where offenses are king because of the rule changes combined with the brilliant, and progressive offensive minds that are instilling college concepts into their playbooks. It’s now on the defenses to play catch-up.

The NFL’s tailored their rules to help the passing game, in turn putting added value on the quarterback position and putting an all-time high value on the wide receiver position. And we are seeing a shift to a hybrid role for the running back position where you want your back to be able to both run and catch, while pass protecting.

And in turn, there has been an increase in the scoring outputs of each game, making for a better product and increased ratings.

There has been an uptick in offenses this season like we’ve never seen before and the roots can be traced back to the Rams’ hiring of young offensive wunderkind Sean McVay before the 2017 season.

McVay completely changed the trajectory of 2016’s first overall pick Jared Goff, and in turn, changed the entire outlook of a stale Rams franchise.

The Rams went from last in scoring in 2016 to first in 2017, which was the reason for their seven-win jump, regardless of their defensive flaws, showing just how vital an excellent offense is compared to everything else. And because of it, the best plan of action has become to hire a creative offensive mind who is willing to implement college-style aspects to optimize your quarterback’ talent, and in turn your offense’s production.

Last year the top team in yards gained was the New England Patriots at 394.2 yards-per-game. In yards-per-play it was the New Orleans Saints at 6.3. And in points-per-game, it was the Rams with an average of 29.9 points. The Patriots would rank ninth this season with that number, the Saints would be tied for sixth, and the Rams would be tied for fourth.

It shows that to win in the NFL you need an excellent offense now. There’s such an emphasis on that side of the ball that gone are the days where “defense wins championships.”

The three highest scoring teams this year happen to have the three best records in the league, regardless of their defensive issues. And the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Los Angeles Chargers are in the next tier (at worst) of power rankings but have comparable offensive talent.

It’s not to say that the offenses of the Saints, Rams, Chiefs, and Steelers are less impressive because of the changes. You don’t see any other teams putting up close to 40 points each game or hanging a 50 burger like these four can or have done. They are on another level compared to everyone else, which make them the best teams in the league.

“Defense wins championships” is more literal now and last year’s Super Bowl was the perfect example. The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots entered the game with good defenses but could not stop each other.

The 1,151 total yards was the highest-ever in a modern-day game, and there was just a single punt in 60 minutes. It was the team that made the first defensive play which won, and the Eagles did so by forcing a strip-sack of Tom Brady at the end.

And that is where defenses are going now. It’s hard to force three-and-outs now, especially against the game’s titans. And because it’s so hard to get stops, we are trending towards focusing less on total yards allowed, instead, prioritizing finding difference-makers on defense to force turnovers.

That is why Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack are the two highest paid defensive players ever. That’s why the Steelers defense has improved over the last six-to-seven weeks. Pass rushers.

The best way to disrupt a passing game is by getting to the quarterback. Not an elite secondary anymore because with the new rules, it’s hard to reach the standards of the ‘Legion of Boom’ or Denver’s old ‘No Fly Zone.’

The Rams forced five turnovers yesterday, and all were because of their pass rush. Aaron Donald had two strip-sacks, breakout star Samson Ebukam had a terrific pick-6 as a linebacker, and the pass rush forced Mahomes into two more interceptions late in the game.

You need the home run plays on defense because leads aren’t as safe as they used to be when facing the better teams. Lead changes don’t matter as much in many games, especially Monday night, because of how quickly some teams can score.

Even if you hate it as a fan, it’s hard to dispute that the NFL’s future is in good hands. We have excellent offensive minds helping to groom young quarterbacks into the next faces of the NFL. With it, we are getting well-polished, creative, high-octane offenses which will draw fans in.

The NFL is changing before our very own eyes, and the Chiefs-Rams game was the epitome of it. Resources are being put into the offensive side (including coaching) like never before, and that is the time we are in.

 

Sports and food enthusiast. Love reading thriller and Comic books. Will talk almost any movie or tv show (more recent preferred), especially Westworld!

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