I watched a good football game the other day. One team built a big lead over the other with a dizzying array of strategies: shifts, motions, multiple formations, and even read-option plays, where the quarterback decided whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself based on the defense’s movement. With the score 31-3, I nearly stopped watching.
Then the trailing team sprang to life, scoring four touchdowns in less than a quarter, tying the game 31-31, by throwing the ball 65 times using three, four and five receiver sets and a frenetic no-huddle pace. The comeback failed, however, as the team that once led by 28 points responded with a quick touchdown of their own, and won 41-34. It was a good game, but an odd one.
What was not strange were the teams’ tactics. In high school and college, football has been rapidly changing. New variations on the read-option, no-huddle and all manner of other new offensive strategies seem to pop up every year. There, change is normal. But I wasn’t watching two high schools, or even two teams from the Mid-American Conference or the Big 12. No, what made the game odd was that I was watching the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots in the National Football League.