Arkush: Defense still wins titles

Denver Broncos' Montee Ball is tackled by Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett (72) and Earl Thomas (29) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The NFL season is indeed a marathon rather than a sprint, but with the Seahawks' 43-8 rout of the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII now in the books, another grueling season and race are over.

What did we learn, and where do we go from here?

It seems to me the most emphatic lesson to take from 2013 is that, as entertaining and exciting as wide open offenses and NFL passing attacks can be, defense and ground games still win championships.

Can there be any doubt after Denver’s pathetic performance on the game’s biggest stage, and how thoroughly they dominated the Patriots in the AFC title game, that the three best teams in the NFL this year were Seattle, San Francisco and Carolina?

Could it be mere coincidence that those three clubs all finished in the bottom tier of NFL passing offenses, but were the three best defenses in the league and owned among the league’s best running games?

Is it also just a fluke that each of those clubs possess one of the NFL’s brightest young quarterbacks, but that none of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton has done anything to suggest they will be among the league’s top passers but all three can beat you with their legs at almost any time?

To be clear, I suspect teams quarterbacked by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees will win another Super Bowl or two before they are all done. But not without a top defense and a stud running back or two.

Bringing this closer to home, there is a theory that’s been espoused mainly by ill-informed media and fans, but also by the occasional NFL coach or general manager, that teams can contend in the NFL with a big-time offense and an “adequate” defense.

I believe the Seahawks and Broncos just proved – with an exclamation point – that is not the case.

Another hot–button topic to come out of this Super Bowl is the question of whether or not the “cold weather” Super Bowl worked and can work again in the future.

As lucky as the NFL owners got with the weather last week in New York and New Jersey, and as incredibly lucky as they were on gameday, my sense from Roger Goodell and the other powers that be is they know exactly how lucky they got and that they will be in no great hurry to try it again.

Interestingly enough, the two cold-weather cities with open air stadiums rumored to be preparing bids for February of 2018 – ’15, ’16 and ’17 have been awarded to Arizona, San Francisco and Houston – are Denver and Seattle.

We’ll know more about this at the NFL owners meetings in the spring, but I’d put my money on New Orleans, which will also be preparing a bid for 2018, while the “cold weather” question gets kicked down the road a bit.

What will the next big topic be for the NFL’s owners and its fans? Keep your eyes on St. Louis and Los Angeles.

While it absolutely escapes me why the NFL owners are so determined to put a team back in L.A. when two have already failed and left, and the TV ratings in the market improve markedly when there is no club there, they are.

It was reported last Wednesday that St. Louis Rams owner and billionaire real estate developer Stan Kroenke recently purchased 60 acres of land in the L.A. market, and it is no secret he continues to be frustrated by the refusal of the folks in St. Louis to update the stadium there or build a new one.

It could just be that Kroenke found a deal on land he couldn’t pass up. Or it could be that he will petition the league this spring to allow him to finally build a stadium in L.A. and move the Rams back to L.A.

Kroenke’s not saying, but it’s a story we’ll watch closely.

• Hub Arkush covers the NFL for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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