Monday free-for-all: Defense matters

A franchise quarterback is the ticket to the playoffs, but the past decade has shown it makes more than that to win a title.

Defense decided the Super Bowl. That’s not unusual, though.

It was true last year when the Bucs pass rush was the reason that Tampa Bay kept Kansas City from becoming the first team in 16 years to win back-to-back championships. It was true when the Rams lost their last Super Bowl appearance four years ago, too, failing to score a touchdown against Bill Belichick’s New England defense.

Aaron Donald was the difference Sunday. Not single-handedly. He used two hands to keep hold of Samaje Perine’s waist and prevent him from converting on third-and-1. And then he was so quick the double team couldn’t arrive on the next play, when he grabbed hold of quarterback Joe Burrow and forced a desperation duck that wobbled incomplete to seal the victory.

So we’ll start Monday’s free-for-all newsletter with the most important player in Sunday’s game, and why that matters for Seattle, and no, I’m not buying into any of that discussion about Donald perhaps retiring. That’s something you say at the end of a long season when you’re at the cusp of a childhood, not something you do at the end of a summer when you’re the reigning champ and scheduled to make $20 million.

Cooper Kupp may have been named the MVP of Sunday’s game, and Matthew Stafford is being praised as the piece that put the Rams over the top, but Donald was the difference and I think that’s worth considering for just a second. We spend an awful lot of time talking about quarterbacks in the NFL and for good reason. When you’ve got a great one, you can expect to be a perennial playoff performer should your quarterback stay healthy. This is the spot that the Seahawks have been in since they drafted Russell Wilson. Winning a championship requires significantly more than that, though, and I don’t feel like the Seahawks have gotten any closer to having significantly more than that over the past five seasons.

Maybe I’m selling the 2020 season short. Seattle did win 12 games that season, but I found myself a bit skeptical over whether the defense was as formidable as it looked over the second half of the season. They played an awful lot of scrub quarterbacks.

But this isn’t just about the Seahawks. It’s about the fact that Peyton Manning won as many Super Bowls when he was being carried by his defense as he did when his offense was carrying the franchise. It’s that for all Aaron Rodgers’ devastating efficiency, he’s only played in one Super Bowl with the Packers and that Patrick Mahomes has now lost as many AFC Championship Games as he has won and that while he’s certainly allowed to have a bad game, he turned in an absolute stinker against Cincinnati.

I’m not so simple as to say that defense wins championships. You need a great quarterback to get you in position to win one or at least a very good quarterback. But you need more than just that great quarterback. A lot more, and while Seattle isn’t going to find a player as good as Donald this offseason (namely because there aren’t any other players as good as him) it has a long way to go to reclaim the summit they held 9 years ago.

Capital pressure?

I’m not a real big fan of Mike Florio, who runs ProFootballTalk.com and appears as part of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” broadcast. He is neither fish nor fowl. Not a journalist nor truly an insider. Some of what he does is repackaging the reporting of others. Some of it is in service of the agents he’s obviously close to. Some of it is “stuff” from inside the league.

Florio can be useful, though, as a weather vane. The stuff he says often reflects a fact or message that somebody wants out there, which is why I find his “report” on the Super Bowl pre-game show so fascinating.

There’s no actual news there. Every event that Florio outlined has been reported elsewhere. The only thing new comes at the end: A statement of mood among other owners that “the time may have come for Daniel Snyder to move on.” This is a purpose pitch. A message that is being sent to one person: Snyder. It’s from the league office and carries with it the implication that the other boys in the old-boys club that is the NFL ownership group want Snyder out. Last week, the NFL indicated the league — not the team — was going to review new allegations against Snyder.

Preferential treatment?

I wrote last week about how some Americans view Eileen Gu, the freestyle skier who decided to compete for China. She has been a breakout star in China after winning a gold medal. The New York Times noted in a story this weekend that she experienced some pushback from Chinese fans after it was pointed out that her access to Instagram constituted special treatment. Most major Western news sites and social-media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Twitter are blocked outright in China. “Anyone can download a VPN,” Gu responded. “It’s literally free on the App Store.” Except, as a user informed Gu, that would be illegal in China.

The crazy crypto caper

Please help me: I can’t tell if the seizure of $4.5 billion in stolen crypto currency is evidence of how secure the stuff is or how ridiculous. On the one hand, blockchain is the reason it was possible for authorities to recoup the loot years after it was taken. Or is it evidence of just what a slap-dash ludicrous endeavor the whole thing is. After all, a husband-and-wife duo — neither of whom were 40 — are alleged to have hacked into an exchange, made 2,000 unauthorized transactions to make off with all that. Heather Morgan, 31, is half the duo. She has a rap alter-ego Razzlekahn and used social media to capture large, chocolate-covered pancakes as some sort of commentary on consumerism and the superficial nature of social media. They don’t exactly seem like super sleuths, and they had $4.5 billion until getting caught.

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