#1 www.panthersauthorizedshops.com von hong wei 20.12.2018 01:58

Four of the five teams that gave up the fewest points during the regular season are the last four left with a shot at the Super Bowl http://www.panthersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-ian-thomas-jersey , something that had never happened since the NFL-AFL merger nearly a half-century ago.

And three of the four toughest to gain yards against are still around, too.

Still think that all a team needs to succeed in the modern game is an elite QB? Go ahead and take a close look at Sunday’s matchups for the conference championship games.

Sure, Tom Brady (assuming his injured right hand is good to go) and the New England Patriots will be playing for the AFC title, just like they always do, but they’ll be going up against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles will send Nick Foles out to face the Minnesota Vikings and Case Keenum, hardly a marquee matchup between quarterbacks, and one set up by injuries to other signal-callers.

What this quartet of teams does have in common is solid defense, showing once again that while everyone is paying so much attention to one side of the ball, it’s the other that might truly matter the most. The more league rules and officiating tend to favor offenses, the more figuring out ways to slow that down is imperative.

”When you have a defense that can shut that type of firepower down,” said Brian Robison, a linebacker on the Vikings defense that ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed, ”it allows you to win ballgames.”

Minnesota gave up 15.8 points per game. Jacksonville was No. 2 at 16.8, followed by No. 4 Philadelphia’s 18.4 and No. 5 New England’s 18.5.

”There’s teams that have really good defenses that aren’t talked about http://www.bearsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-joel-iyiegbuniwe-jersey ,” Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ”We’re one of them.”

It’s the first time since the 1970 merger there has been that sort of defensive dominance among the NFL’s final four. The closest was at the end of the 2010 season, when teams that ranked No. 1 (Steelers), No. 2 (Packers), No. 4 (Bears) and No. 6 (Jets) in points allowed reached the conference title games.

”The most heralded guys on the field are the quarterbacks. So I would say, nine times out of 10, your detail goes into your offensive planning and things like that,” said Jacksonville’s leading tackler, Telvin Smith, who returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown last weekend. ”Offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships. I’m happy I’m on the defensive side.”

He is part of a young, talented and speedy D that rose to prominence quickly via a combination of shrewd drafting (linebackers Smith and Myles Jack, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr., cornerback Jalen Ramsey) and free-agent signings that panned out (defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson).

Take a look at the regular-season rankings in various defensive categories Youth Marcus Davenport Jersey , and you can’t miss the Jaguars. That helps explain how they made it this far with Bortles, whose 84.7 rating ranked 22nd among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts and whose 13 interceptions were exceeded by only six players.

Campbell tied for second in NFL with 14.5 sacks, while Ngakoue added 12 and led the league by forcing six fumbles. Bouye tied for third with six interceptions, while Ramsey, Gipson and Church each had four. As a unit, the Jaguars were No. 2 in yards allowed at 286.1, trailing the No. 1 Vikings (275.9), with the Eagles (306.5) at No. 4. The Jaguars were also second in sacks and total takeaways, while they topped the NFL with seven defensive TDs.

Exceptional defense can carry a team far: In nine of the last 10 seasons, the No. 1 or No. 2 team in points allowed participated in a conference championship game. The exception was 2015, when the Seahawks led the league in that category but lost in the divisional round, and the Bengals ranked second but lost in the wild-card round.

”Now it’s down to, `May the best defense win,”’ Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. ”We each get to showcase what we can do.”



AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Kyle Hightower in Foxborough Youth Jessie Bates III Jersey , Massachusetts; Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida; and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.



Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson got his NFL start as a scout with the New England Patriots, the same team his new head coach Mike Vrabel won three Super Bowl rings as a linebacker.

Yes, it seems like the Titans are trying to implement the Patriot Way in Music City.

Vrabel said that’s what it looks like – until the Titans win big themselves.

”You have to be able to win championships before people start giving you ways to do things,” Vrabel said Monday. ”So that’ll be our ultimate goal. … Until we can win a championship doing that, there’s not going to be this Titan Way. It will be talked about in the building. But people from outside the building, they won’t believe in us, they won’t have faith in us until you win.”

The Titans introduced Vrabel as their new coach Monday. They agreed to terms with Vrabel on Saturday , just five days after firing Mike Mularkey coming off the franchise’s first playoff win in 14 years.

This is the first head coaching job for Vrabel, 42.

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk noted Robinson and Vrabel have known each other for years. She also likes Vrabel’s experience and vision for building on back-to-back 9-7 seasons.

”I believe he will do everything he can to bring this town a championship,” Strunk said.

Vrabel is coming off his first season as defensive coordinator for the Texans. Vrabel started his NFL career in Pittsburgh under coach Bill Cowher before signing with New England under coach Bill Belichick, and he finished in Kansas City. In 2011, he joined the staff at his alma mater, Ohio State, coaching linebackers and then defensive linemen.

He said nobody’s ever really ready to be a head coach for the first time in the NFL Youth Mike White Jersey , though Vrabel feels as ready as he can be thanks to his doctorate degree in coaching he picked up working with some of the best in the game.

”There will be things that I take from New England, from Pittsburgh, from Ohio State, from Houston,” Vrabel said. ”I mean there will be things that I take from everywhere. You draw on these experiences just like everybody else would in life … The nice thing is now there’s things that I didn’t like that Billy did, I get to change them. So there’s things I like that he did, I get to use them.”

Vrabel went to Houston in 2014 and coached linebackers with the Texans for three seasons before becoming coordinator. The Texans won the AFC South in 2015 and 2016 thanks in part to strong defenses. The unit slipped this season amid injuries to players including J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

Building on the Titans’ playoff win in Kansas City means putting Marcus Mariota in position to blossom. Whoever Vrabel hires as his offensive coordinator will be Mariota’s third going into his fourth NFL season, and Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ryan Day reportedly is the early favorite for the job in Tennessee.

”I think Amy’s going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus,” Vrabel said. ”Jon’s going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus or I wouldn’t have been hired.”

And Vrabel made it very clear he knows the potential for Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 pick overall in 2015. He recalled Mariota pulling a hamstring Oct. 1 against the Texans.

”A special talent, a special kid, and I can’t wait to work with him and help him through taking that next step in his career,” Vrabel said.

This was Robinson’s first head coaching search since being hired in January 2016, two days before the Titans took the interim tag off Mularkey. The Titans went 21-22 with Mularkey taking a team that had the NFL’s worst record at 5-27 combined over 2014 and 2015 to a team that lost in the AFC divisional round to New England.

Mularkey was fired less than 48 hours after that loss. The Titans interviewed only three people with Vrabel first to meet with them Thursday. The Titans also interviewed Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur .

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