Ramsey: Pointed criticism of passing game in NFL

By David Ramsey, david.ramsey@gazette.com Updated: December 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm • Published: December 11, 2013 | 7:15 pm 0

Football at its highest level is broken. Passing has hijacked the NFL game while scores soar to the heavens. Any team sport features a delicate balance between scoring and defending. This tension is what brings drama to the afternoons and nights we spend in front of TV sets.

The tension is vanishing in football. The drama is fading. Football is busted and needs fixing.

In the Broncos' first 52 seasons of existence, they scored 50 points once. In the past 10 weeks, the Broncos have scored 50 points three times.

Sure, it seems fun when every Sunday afternoon ranks right up there in excitement with the Fourth of July.

But will this excessive fun last?

No. At some point, we'll awaken and realize we're watching glorified Arena Football.

On Sunday afternoon, Peyton Manning and the Broncos played in viciously bitter conditions on the edge of downtown Denver.

The cold failed to bother Manning, who completed 39 passes while passing the Broncos to a 51-28 victory. And the Broncos probably would have scored 58 if Montee Ball had caught a perfectly placed Manning pass late in the second quarter.

After the game, I talked with Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner. He was surrounded by discouraged, bewildered defensive backs.

You and your friends face an impossible task, I told Verner.

"I can't think that way," Verner said, even as he nodded yes.

Impossible is the correct word.

The Titans defense barely bothered Manning. The weather failed to faze him. One of the greatest quarterbacks ever is wowing us because of his matchless preparation and ball placement and timing, but let's be sure to remember all the restrictions placed on defensive backs.

Receivers used to invade the defensive secondary with fear and trembling.

This is where sinister men lurked. Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, Steve Atwater, Dennis Smith and Ronnie Lott swaggered around their defensive domain, seeking whom they might devour.

Former Broncos running back Floyd Little, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played during the era when defense still had a chance. Now, when Little watches games, he feels sorrow for the defenders.

"Look at these receivers!" said Little, who led the NFL in rushing in 1971. "You've got to be kidding me! The height, the size and the speed! You have guys who run 4.3 in the 40 against a guy who is running backwards trying to cover them."

Little is not surprised by the NFL's evolution. Fans enjoy scoring, and the NFL owners are smart enough to cater to fans.

"People don't want to go see a game that's 10-3," Little said. "It's boring for them. People like long passes, long runs. Those kind of games are the best kind of games for the spectator."

Little paused.

"But I like the game the way it used to be," he said. "50 percent run, 50 percent pass and somebody wins 21-14."

Manning is freakishly attuned to the modern NFL. He glances at defenders and appears blessed with the skill to read their minds.

But it doesn't take a freak to dominate the modern game. On Monday night, the Bears and Cowboys competed in tundra-like conditions on the edge of downtown Chicago.

Didn't matter.

Backup quarterback Josh McCown completed 27 of 36 passes, tossed four touchdowns and lifted Chicago to 45 points and the victory.

It was clear, on this gloomy night in Chicago, football's essence is in danger.

On Oct. 6, 1963, the Broncos and Chargers met at the old Bears Stadium, only a few dozen yards from the current Mile High.

The Broncos roared to a 50-34 victory.

The Broncos would not score 50 points again until Sept. 29, 2013 when Manning dropped 52 on the Eagles.

In 2013, 50 points is no big deal.

The Broncos reached that mark Sunday, and there's a strong chance they'll surpass the half-century mark again Thursday against the Chargers.

A delicate balance has been lost. The game is broken.


Twitter: @davidramz

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