Defense vs Knees – a battle for the ages!

Last Sunday, the consensus “best team in football” visited Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots. Both teams had been on a tear through the NFL. The Broncos helped by a defense pumped up by the offseason additions of Damarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and TJ Ward, the Patriots fuelled by a healthier Rob Gronkowski, the Incredible Hulk’s hard partying little brother. Last year Ward, then a Cleveland Brown, ended Gronk’s season with a low hit to the knee. We should have seen this play coming.

I’m not going to spend this post talking about whether this hit was dirty, I’ll leave that up to sports talk radio and it’s “whoever shouts loudest” debating style. Instead, I’m going to try to answer the question that has be said rhetorically in all of these debates, “What else can Ward do?!”.

I sympathise with TJ on some level. As a coach, I have had to teach kids of all sizes and I’ve seen the look on their faces when they have to take down someone who, while similar in age, may as well be a different species! And my advice to them? Go low. However, I do not suggest diving at someones knees. The reasons a pretty simple, it’s dangerous on two counts (their knees, and your head!). There is another reason though, what happens if you miss? Now that monster with the ball can gather steam and will be tougher for the next chump to tackle. For some reason, football fans and maybe even players seem to think that the area below a players shoulder’s and above his knees is some kind of Bermuda Triangle of tackling. In the case of Gronk, there’s actually a lot to hit in that area! Humans bend at the waist whether we want to or not. Ward could easily have used a form tackle, he had time to line up, get his feet under him, and drive through the target’s soft middle. The benefits of this approach would be a surer hit, and a much higher likelihood of separating the ball from the player.

So there’s my answer to a question a lot of people have asked and also my first post on this site!

P.S. A sportstalk radio discusion of the hit… *sigh*