The NFL hasn’t changed much in the last decade, at least not off the field. The same 32 teams in the same 32 cities play the same old 16-game schedule. For those of us on the grown-up side of 30 years old, 2003 doesn’t even seem like 10 years ago.
While today’s NFL may be, as then, the NFL of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the game has quietly undergone an offensive revolution.
After the 2003 New England Patriots used a relentlessly physical secondary to shut down Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, NFL officials changed the way they enforced pass interference. That provided an immediate boost to passing offense, and offensive coordinators have been trying to press that advantage ever since.
In every way, NFL offense has changed dramatically over the past 10 years—and for the better.
As the NFL looked to the college game for advanced passing inspiration, pro teams spread the field with more wide receivers, passed far more and let their quarterbacks line up in the shotgun to avoid the pass rush.
Single-back offenses fell out of favor, and running backs became far more specialized. With most teams using two, three or four running backs like Swiss army knives, there’s less overall running than there was a decade ago, but it’s more effective.
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