Q&A: In praise of defence

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The Independent Online
Q. In American Football, teams from the National Football Conference (NFC) have won the last 13 Super Bowls. Why is this Conference so much stronger than the American Football Conference (AFC)?

A. Although the AFC is largely comprised of teams from the pre-amalgamation American Football League, with its reputation for insubstantial but entertaining high-scoring play, this has no bearing on the present cycle of NFC superiority. Parity is encouraged by a college draft of players, a salary cap and free agency for veterans.

The better managed and coached teams usually prevail. The expression "Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships" is key. While at the "skill" positions (quarterback, receiver, running back) good teams are always well supplied, there is no monopoly at work. Top teams often have the toughest schedules, i.e. in the NFC East, where Washington, Dallas, New York Giants and Philadelphia meet twice a year. These often defensive battles prepare the teams for post-season play. The survivors from the NFC are accustomed to rugged low-scoring encounters.

Between 1969 and 1981, AFC teams won 11 and lost only two Super Bowls. Teams were assembled more slowly and good ones remained contenders for longer. After 13 fruitless contests, AFC owners are now employing coaches who value players with defensive qualities. Lovers of spectacle may not see as much scoring, but the season lasts longer if your players can stop the opposition. - Eric Scott, Inverythan, Aberdeenshire


Q. In 1990 Oldham Athletic beat West Ham United 6-0 in the first leg of the semi-final of the then Littlewoods Cup - now the Coca-Cola Cup. Has there been a bigger winning margin in the final of a national cup competition? - Neil Howarth, Redruth

Q. Why cannot Jose Maria Olazabal use a caddy car at the Augusta Masters given his foot injury and the course topography? Generally, why do caddies not use golf trolleys rather than carrying heavy bags around long courses? - Anthony McGarrigle, Strabane

If you know the answers to any of these questions or have a sporting question of your own, write to Q&A, Sports Desk, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2894