x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

No looking back in the NFL as offences have taken hold

With new rules that favour the offence over the defence, observers say the NFL is bordering on becoming a "touch" or "flag" football league. But even the harshest critic must agree that conditions have been created allowing astounding comebacks.

No looking back as offences have taken hold

The tweaking of rules that have nudged the NFL towards becoming a pass-first game has irked traditionalists, who harp that the league has degenerated into glorified "touch" or "flag" football.

But even they must acknowledge that the new model keeps trailing teams in contention until the end and creates conditions for comebacks that would have been considered astounding in a bygone era. So your team gets down by double digits? No problem. Relax and wait for the rally. The Detroit Lions have escaped 20 and 24-point deficits, and the Buffalo Bills have dug out of 18 and 21-point holes for victories, and the San Francisco 49ers gave the Philadelphia Eagles a 20-point lead before winning.

An increase in points would seem to reduce the number of close final scores. Instead, the league is on a record pace for games determined by a touchdown or less, with 35 after four weeks. The 22 games over the past two Sundays/Mondays with margins that topped out at seven points were the most for any two-week window.

Purists who yearn for the days when rulemakers treated offences and defences with equal fairness will have to wallow in nostalgia.

There is no going back.