As the NFL playoffs deepen this coming weekend, fans will see a lot of good offenses on display. The New England Patriots under Tom Brady, the Green Bay Packers under Aaron Rodgers, and the New Orleans Saints under Drew Brees — all of them can take the ball the length of the field while you’re taking the garbage the length of the hallway.
As these offenses do their work, they generate one of the most inane cliches in a field rife with them. Here’s a little taste, emphasis added:
A revitalized run game will help in keeping the game close, and the Packers offense off of the field, but they’ll take it however they can get it to avoid packing their bags until next season.
If you turn on the tube Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you’re going to hear the catchphrase over and over. What the Giants want to do is keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. What you’ve got to do is just keep Brady off that field.
Thing about it, it has never worked. The way football rules go is that once one team finishes a drive, it forfeits the ball to the other side. Meaning that the fearsome quarterback takes the field. Even if, say, the Giants are able to put together long drives against the Packers, they’ll have to kick the ball to the Pack, with the result that Aaron Rodgers will take the field, score quickly and retreat to the sidelines to whoop it up with his colleagues.
No long drive will prevent such an outcome. Consider: Team A comes into a playoff game determined to keep Team B’s awesome quarterback off the field. It opens the game with a ten-minute drive for a touchdown. Then Team B takes the ball following the kickoff and scores in five plays. What’s the advantage here?
The strategy may well be reckless. If you plot to execute long drives, after all, what happens when you’re down with a minute left on the clock? In their clash earlier this year, the Giants put together an impressive drive against the Packers to tie the game with 58 seconds remaining. Rodgers, the guy the Giants didn’t want on the field, then took the field and easily drove his team for a winning field goal.
The only proven way to keep sharpshooter quarterbacks off the field is to force turnovers on kickoffs. That is a strategy that everyone can agree on.