HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

September 3, 2007

A little less defense and a lot more offense

By Jesse Menden

Defense wins championships, just ask the Indianapolis Colts. In the past few seasons they have had some of the best regular season records, but would fizzle in the playoffs due to their poor defense.

And then 2006 rolled around. Nobody paid attention to them because that high-flying offense wasn’t doing as well. But the defense finally figured it out, and they won the Super Bowl. That was hardly a coincidence.

Defense only wins championships if you have at least a functional offense to go with it.

You could cite the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who were somewhat hapless when it came to moving the ball. They won the Super Bowl, led by barely-professional quarterback Trent Dilfer, but they also had a rookie running back named Jamal Lewis who rushed for over 1,300 yards that season.

When you look at the local squads, all of them have a championship-calibur defense, but zero offense to go with it.

That results in four teams that can shut their opponents down, but can’t find home plate, the end zone, the back of the net, or the bottom of the net. And to be honest, I’m tired of it.

I think defense is important. It should be preached and ingrained into the mind of every player. But the teams in this state have taken it too far.

When is the last time you saw a fan bring a cardboard ‘D’ and a drawing of a fence into a local stadium? It doesn’t happen anymore because all of the fans know they’re going to see good defense; the offense is the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 1-0 pitching duals as much as the next guy, but when the pitcher shutting the Twins down has an earned run average of over seven, there is a problem. And frankly, that’s just not that fun to watch.

Through last week’s series against Cleveland, the Twins had been shut out an MLB-high 12 times. When their series ended against Seattle Aug. 22, the Twins’ .252 batting average was the worst of any American League team during the month of August.

In a recent series with the Texas Rangers, the Twins scored just three runs. That is hardly professional.

On the sunny side, though, the Twins are fifth in the majors in fielding, and have committed the fourth-fewest errors. To make up for that dreadful offense, the defense might have to be error-free.

The Twins run in the second half of the 2006 season was exciting because they were winning games, but they were also scoring a ton of runs. They scored over 800 for the first time in a while, and it was fun.

Of course, I wouldn’t be so bitter at the Twins if some other teams in Minnesota had an offense. In the first two preseason games, the Vikings’ defense has outscored the offense by two touchdowns through the first three preseason games. The defense has four touchdowns while the offense has just two.

Last season, the Vikings scored the third-least points in the conference, and that is including the league-leading six touchdowns the defense scored. The offense doesn’t stand much of a chance to get better this year with a quarterback at the helm who has just two starts under his belt.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be so bitter at the Vikings if the Wild scored a lot, but they don’t either.

As long as Jacques Lemaire is coaching the Wild, they will be a defensive team.

But with the additions before the 2006-07 season, everyone was hoping for an offensive twist to the defensive style.

But that didn’t happen. The powerplay went through portions of the season where they could barely get the puck in the zone, much less score. The Wild’s small forwards were pushed around by bigger teams.

Overall, the Wild finished 19th in scoring with 225 goals. They were 21st in even-strength goals with 129. They were less boring than the year before, but that is not really saying much.

Of course, their defense was just fine. They led the league in goals against with just 184 goals allowed. That was seven better than the next best team.

The Wild’s lack of offense would not bother me so much if the Timberwolves would score some points. They ranked 20th this season in scoring, averaging 96 points a game.

The only problem is that their defense was not much better, ranking 19th in points allowed.

With the exception of the T-Wolves, defense seems to be the strategy of choice in these parts. When these teams do make the playoffs, they don’t get very far. So with a championship not really in the picture for the local teams, why not make it a little more fun to watch – concentrate a little less on defense and a lot more on offense?