On Offensive Play Differential and the Unfortunate Consequences of Groupthink

First and foremost I want to say this: The title of this fanpost could easily be considered a slam, but it is not my intention to slam anyone. JeromesFriend wrote an excellent piece on Offensive Play Differential correlating to increased win probability. I however would like to take issue with the statement that "playing fast will offer the Eagles an edge."

The problem with that statement (which I acknowledge is commonly recognized) is that simply playing fast does you no good if you can't convert first downs. I for one believe the Eagles have a group of offensive players in place who won't have much trouble converting first downs, and scoring points; assuming Chip Kelly's playbook works. So what's my beef?

It's become commonplace to hear phrases like: The NFL is an offense dominated league, Points come from the passing game, and we've abandoned the term Defense Wins Championships. It's gotten to the point that people seem to forget about the other side of the ball.

An offense can't run any plays when it doesn't have the ball.

In the comments section of JeromesFriend's post NJBammer brought up Parcells' Giants win over the Bills. Anyone who suggests that those Giants were an offensive juggernaut would likely be laughed at - they had a freaking backup QB starting that game for goodness sake - but they were still able to run 28 more offensive plays than the Bills: emphatically emphasizing the statistical analysis of this post's rather undeserving whipping boy.

That game was won because the Giants Defense (Belichick's Defense) got the ball back to the Giants offense. The Giants Defense punished the Bills offense to the point where the Bills Wide Receivers were afraid to cross the middle. Belichick actually fielded 5 Linebackers playing in zones for parts of the game simply to hammer anyone who caught the ball.

My point is this. Football is a function of both offense and defense. It's the offenses responsibility to score points and the defenses responsibility to get the ball back to the offense. It doesn't matter if your offense runs 89 plays in a game and scores 5 TDs if the opposing team runs 49 and scores 5 and a field goal. A fast paced offense doesn't necessarily generate a substantial play differential, but a defense that can get the ball back to a capable offense can and likely will.

How different would Scott Norwood's legacy be today if he had hit that 47 yarder?

So, rather than passively regurgitating what ESPN feeds, how about we try to remember that football is an F(O and D). Here's hoping Bill Davis's D can provide the stops needed for Chip Kelly's O to roll up the play differential.

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