It is difficult to imagine two more brilliant and exciting quarterbacks than Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) or two more effortlessly perfect passers and play-callers than Tom Brady (New England Patriots) and Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos).
But, here is what all four of these teams have figured out: if the defensive secondary holds the pass receivers, they can shut down the opposing passing attacks and the referees cannot possibly call holding on every play, or even most of them. It would turn the game into a farce, and the fans would revolt.
Re-enter, the running game. It is how Seattle knocked off New Orleans and how the Patriots trounced San Diego. With a bruising running attack, the defense tires, the offense keeps the ball and, significantly, when the defense holds on the occasional pass play, the referees will call it because there are not so many of them.
The Patriots have the most bruising runner of them all -- LeGarrette Blount, very fast and agile, and weighing 250lbs on only a 6' frame. When he gets a little head of steam, the defense feels it. Each team, however, has a premier running back. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch also makes the defense feel it when they go to tackle him.
The Seahawks and the 49ers each have another weapon on the ground -- their running QBs. Opposing teams figured out how to smother the read-option (the defensive end or tackle holds his position), but in a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust strategy, it is one less person that has to be blocked.
Prediction: all 4 teams will focus on their running games. Each game will turn on a defensive holding call (or two or three or four) on critical third-down plays. Home-field advantage will give Seattle and Denver the benefit of the doubt on the holding calls that will change the game. Seattle will probably win, but the Patriots will edge Denver because of time of possession and the beating Blount will give to the Denver defense.
Disclaimer: I generally do not see the games until the playoffs, but on the occasions when I have seen a regular season game, the strategy of defensive holding in the secondary was painfully obvious. It is a small, but telling example of the absence of integrity in American culture, and the reason I decided to write about it.