Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/17/12
The year of the quarterback: fans thought 2009 was that season with ten quarterbacks amassing 4,000 yards or more. QB’s such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees made it look easy, dropping balls into places where they’d never been before. Even QB Kyle Orton, who seemingly couldn’t throw the ball effectively downfield, passed for 3,802 yards in 2009.

But quarterback yardage from 2011 passed the record year of 2009. Even with Manning injured, ten quarterbacks again threw for over 4,000 yards including rookie QB Cam Newton. Three of those ten quarterbacks, Brady, Brees and Matt Stafford, passed for more than 5,000 yards.  In NFL history, a quarterback has thrown for over 5,000 yards only five times; three of those times happened this season.

The rate at which these passing numbers and yardage totals were going, experts began to change their opinion on how to win in the NFL. This was especially true when the two number one seeds in the AFC and NFC, New England and Green Bay, finished 31st and last in total defense.

Green Bay gave up more passing yards in a single season than any other team had in the history of the NFL, but still won 15 games. Their passing game, especially QB Aaron Rodgers, was just that effective.

This year, not only were these quarterbacks making the NFL a pass happy league, they were proving that a stellar defense was no longer a need to win in the NFL.
Winning in the playoffs, however, is a completely different matter. New York and San Francisco may have let Green Bay and New Orleans move the ball a little, but they proved a balanced attack wins in the playoffs. The 49ers forced six turnovers to slow down the Saints and at the end of the game when New Orleans did get a lead, their defense could not stop the 26th ranked San Francisco offense. And they had two chances.

In Lambeau, the game wouldn’t have even been close if not for the questionable calls from referees. Both a fumble ruled non-fumble and a personal foul penalty on third down extended two Packer drives that lead to 14 points. The Giants dominated the line of scrimmage on defense, and QB Eli Manning picked apart that weak Packers secondary. In the end, Rodgers’ arm didn’t even keep it close as Green Bay lost 37-20.

In a league where the rest of the teams try to mirror the one that wins it all maybe franchises will learn this postseason that quarterback arms win games in the regular season, but fold against great defenses and more importantly, balanced teams in the playoffs.

Time will tell; New England and their second to last ranked defense still remains, but Baltimore and their balanced attack will have a crack at them this Sunday. Then if New England advances to the Super Bowl, New York or San Francisco will take their shot too.
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