And I rarely pay any attention to any of it.
That is, until recently when I began to take notice of a term I hear often: protecting the pocket.
I had a vague idea of what the term meant but looking it up — and getting the inside scoop from Pat — I discovered it is the “area behind the line of scrimmage where the quarterback is protected from rushing defenders. If looked at from above, it appears as if the quarterback is in a "pocket" of protection behind the offensive line. If a quarterback leaves the pocket, they put themselves at risk of getting sacked.”
Even I know the last thing any coach, team or fan wants to see is your quarterback sacked. This indicates a defender was able to find a weak spot and break through the line. And a sack always comes with a price. It might be...
• the loss of a down. – you only have four downs, or plays, to score or gain 10 yards.
• the loss of yards – you’ve gone backward and now have a further distance to go to get that first down.
• the chance of a fumble – losing the ball altogether.
There’s also the mental aspect that happens to a player when a sack occurs.
• Fear of it happening again – intimidation.
• Discouragement for those on the line for not protecting the pocket.
• The possibility of injury to your quarterback. (We saw this happen when Aaron Rodgers was sacked and suffered a broken clavicle ☹).
I can see why protecting the pocket is an important part of the game of football. The tighter the line, the more secure the quarterback. The more secure the quarterback, the better chance the team has of making the plays. The more completed plays, the better the chance of scoring the touchdown that leads to victory. And that’s what every team is after, right? Victory.
I can also see why God would want us protected in the pocket, too.
Imagine for a moment your life as a football game and you’re the quarterback trying to make your way to the goal God has for you. The same is true for you as it is for the quarterback in football – leave the pocket of protection and you risk getting sacked. Why? Because of the many rushing defenders trying to hold your offensive line with the intention of preventing you from scoring the touchdown. Their objective is to break through the line, sack you and cause you to suffer; either a lost down, lost yards or the same mental crisis players face: fear, intimidation, and discouragement.
Emotions such as these can become defenders on the line pushing back against our offense trying to break into the pocket for a sack. What do we have on our offensive team protecting us while we’re in the pocket? Paul put a great offensive lineup in place for us in Ephesians 6…
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14-17, NIV).
If your offensive line is weak, there’s a good chance your pocket is going to be unprotected and a sack may occur. I think every quarterback wants to know so they can be protected, don't you?
So, where is your line weak?
Have you buckled the belt of truth around your waist? For instance, who’s truth do you listen to and accept? If I were to tell you that as a result of Jesus death on the cross, you stand before Him holy and blameless, without a single fault, would you accept this as truth (Colossians 1:22)? Deception and lies are the defenders at the line trying to push back against the offensive line of truth.
Is the breastplate of righteousness in place? Proverbs 4:23 tell us to “Guard our heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.” How do you protect your heart? An unprotected heart can leave us sacked and suffering. It might be a loss of a down, yards, or even through a mental crisis. I can testify to suffering a few sacks after allowing my heart to go unprotected. Disappointment and rejection can be defenders at this line trying to push back against the offensive breastplate of righteousness.
Are your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace? Ready means having the ability to respond without delay or hesitation. What is your response time to peace? Peter wrote that we should search for peace and work to maintain it (1 Peter 3:11). If I'm not careful I can be consumed by worry. Are your days full of conflict either with yourself or others? Anxiety and Strife are the defenders at this line trying to break the line of offense against the gospel of peace.
Have you taken up the shield of faith? Paul told us it’s this shield that is able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Not just a few: all. When the shield of faith is engaged we are able to step up into the eye of the storm while the offensive line pushes back against the defenders. In the eye of the storm, there is peace even when the storm is raging all around. Pat showed me a perfect example of this during the Patriot vs. Jets game when Tom Brady’s offensive line protected him perfectly so he could fall back and then step up into the “eye of the storm” and complete the play. While the storm is raging around you, in the eye of it, there's peace. How strong is your shield? Do you have faith to believe you can overcome what He says you can overcome? Doubt and unbelief are the defenders pushing back against your line of offense where your shield of faith stands ready.
Have you put on the helmet of salvation? Football players never play the game without a helmet – why? Because they recognize the protection it provides. One hit without the helmet could be disastrous. We, too, must always protect our mind. If you focus on the wrong thing - you’ll believe the wrong thing about yourself and others. Wrong thoughts lead to wrong destinations. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Insecurity and accusation are just two defenders pushing against your offensive line to break it.
And then there is the sword of the Spirit – the word of God: How well do you know the Word? When trying to break through the line of defenders – it’s the use of the word, backed by faith that pushes the defenders back. Football players have a playbook; they study the playbook; and they know the playbook so when game day arrives - they are ready. Our sword is the Word of God and when we know it well, we are able to recognize the defender's strategy as they attempt to break the pocket. Apathy and inconsistency might be two defenders seeking to break through your offensive line here.
Pat also pointed out to me that in football the defenders never go anywhere—you must be on offense to move towards the goal. The truth is, in life, if you are always on the defense, you’re not going to move forward either. You may think you are – but in reality – you’re not. If you feel stuck and you can’t figure out why it might be time to do a little inventory and be honest with yourself. Do you often get defensive when someone challenges your thoughts, words, or actions? Be honest. If you always feel the need to defend yourself maybe it's time to move from defense to offense.
There are plenty of defenders on the line trying to break the pocket and bring you down with a sack.
Deception and lies
Disappointment and rejection
Anxiety and Strife
Insecurity and accusation
Apathy and inconsistency
but there are others: bitterness, jealousy, pride, rebellion, shame, anger, as well as control.
If we allow God to change our identity – one letter at a time – we might just discover which defender is causing us the most trouble. Once it's identified - seek to repair the line. Victory happens when the offensive line is strongest.