Are you not entertained?

I think that was the line from Gladiator, after Russell Crow whipped someone’s ass in the Coliseum.

Last night’s Chiefs/Rams game resulted in 1,001 yards of offense, 56 first downs, 144 plays, 95 passing attempts, and 11 offensive touchdowns. Kansas City turned the ball over five times and committed 13 penalties for 135 yards but still scored 51 points.

It was probably the highest-level offensive football game I’ve ever watched. Both coaches were just rolling last night. Some of the play calls and quarterback throws and receiver routes took us to the pigskin pinnacle. Maybe we did reach the top. It’s innovative and fascinating stuff.

I’m not surprised, though. Are you? This is the way the NFL has been trending for some time now. It’s less about defense and running the football. It’s about a high-powered passing offense predicated on high-level quarterback play and boosted by rule changes that make it harder and harder to be an effective defender in 2018. Long gone are the days of grind-it-out slugfests and 12-9 field goal kicking contests.

Most people will say that’s a good thing, and I don’t think I disagree, at least not on the surface. Offensive football is entertaining. Point-scoring is entertaining. That interfaces extremely well with the modern world of fantasy football and legalized sports betting, which ultimately puts more eyeballs on the product and grows the NFL beyond the typical football fan.

But I don’t think I agree, either. I’m somewhere in the middle, probably because I watch horrendous Big 12 football every week, with comically bad defensive teams allowing 600+ yards and 40+ points per game. I watch defensive coordinators drop eight into coverage and rush three undersized JUCO transfers who gas themselves out trying to beat five linemen to reach a five-star quarterback. Guys like Taylor Cornelius and Kyler Murray just cruise down the field as if there isn’t even a defense in front of them. It’s utterly predictable and unbalanced.

That’s the key here; I like balance in sport. I like a good, even matchup between the offense and the defense. I like when kick returning actually used to be a thing, before the admittedly necessary rule changes were made to cut down on head injuries. I think most people would also say they enjoy a high-level basketball block as much as a big dunk on the other side of the floor. Home runs and diving catches used to be given the same amount of time every morning on Sports Center. 

I’m sitting there watching that game last night and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching Oklahoma and Oklahoma State from a few weeks back. It just felt like defense was a peripheral piece of the entire game, and that’s strange to say when you consider the fact that there were three defensive touchdowns last night, plus a fourth that was overturned on replay. There were eight sacks and guys like Aaron Donald and Chris Jones and Ndamukong Suh were on the field. Even taking all of that into consideration, everybody is talking about the offenses today.

And that’s the goofy double-standard being applied here. When Big 12 teams put up 50 points, everyone says the defenses are shit (which is more or less true.) But when LA and Kansas City play a 54-51 game, it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever witnessed. The offenses are God-like. I know the KC defense isn’t that great, but there’s no way that Rams’ defense should be giving up 51 on their home field with a +3 turnover margin.

It’s weird, but it’s part of the NFL shift. Defenses ARE making plays, they’re just doing it with timely turnovers and momentum shifts instead of forcing punts and getting big stops and locking down teams entirely. Look no further than Super Bowl 52, which was a knock down, drag ’em out type of game. 41-33 is new-age, high-scoring football. The Eagles’ previously stout defense made something like three plays in the entire game, which was more than the two defensive plays New England mustered. Brandon Graham’s strip sack ended up making the difference in a game that was dominated by the offenses, the same way Samson Ebukam won it for the Rams last night.

This is a telling tweet from Kempski over at Voice:


Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns during that 2013 Broncos season. To think that you’ve now got three teams pushing their point total just five seasons later is pretty wild to think about.

I think the conclusion to the premise of the article is something in the middle, like most things in life. Yes, the game was ultra-entertaining. Yes, the game was also some Big 12 bullshit.

But at the end of the day there were key defensive plays and big turnovers that really impacted the outcome. I guess the takeaway is that the NFL trend is high-scoring, high-yardage games where high-level stops and takeaways are still crucial, just much less frequent.