ed. note — Sidney Brown is known as the go-to guy for hockey info on Regal Radio, but what you may not know is that he has quite the encyclopedic brain for all sports. In “Sid Ranks Em’ All” you’ll get to read his unique take on the best and worst of sports with specific lists spanning all playing fields.
In anticipation for Super Bowl 50, taking place Sunday between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, I’ve decided to take brief break from the world of hockey and give my two cents on the big game.
While Denver has the top-ranked defense coming into the game, Carolina not only has the top offense but a great defensive unit to go along with it. Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Cam Newton easily gain the attention of fans because of their play-making skills on offense, to the point that each player’s defense usually gets overlooked, with the exception of this year’s Broncos team due to Manning’s unexpectedly less-than-stellar play.
As fans and experts we tend to remember the great offensive performances in Super Bowl history thanks to countless highlight plays being replayed over and over year after year. Great defensive plays or sequences receives glory only if they turn out to be difference-makers in the game. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to make another one of my famous lists and highlight my top-5 all-around Super Bowl defensive game performances of all time.
5) 1992 Dallas Cowboys (January 31, 1993)
Led by head coach Jimmy Johnson, the youngest team in the NFL finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. Entering Super Bowl XXVII versus the Buffalo Bills, the Bills were in their second consecutive Super Bowl while Dallas was looking for its first title since 1977. Dallas’s regular season saw it become the third team since 1980 to hold their opponents to fewer than 4,000 yards in a 16-game season (1984 Chicago Bears and 1991 Philadelphia Eagles).
Nicknamed the “Doomsday Defense” and led by Charles Haley, Ken Norton, Russell Maryland, Jimmy Jones and Leon Lett, the Cowboys forced nine turnovers (5 fumbles and 4 interceptions) in a devastating performance at the Rose Bowl. In the process, Bills starting quarterback Jim Kelly was knocked out in the second quarter. Besides winning the game 52-17, this contest would be remembered for fumble return by Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett, which was knocked out of his hands by Bills receiver Don Beebe in a supreme example of hustle.
FUN FACT: No Pro Bowl selections for this memorable defensive unit.
4) 2013 Seattle Seahawks (February 2, 2014)
With great defensive units having become a thing of the past in today’s NFL, the Seattle Seahawks turned back the clock and dominated Super Bowl XLVIII with a defense that looks like it will stand the test of time, just ask Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos who lost 43-8 to the Seahawks.
Manning only hit the turf once through a sack, but the Seahawks held the Broncos to 27 total rushing yards and created four turnovers (2 interceptions and 2 fumbles) plus started the game with a safety.
MVP Malcolm Smith led the way with six tackles, a fumble recovery and a 69-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter to break the game open. Seattle’s secondary, known as “The Legion of Boom,” and led by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, punished Denver’s wide receivers the entire game by disrupting routes and not allowing much yardage after the catch. This dominating performance is considered to be the best in recent memory and it provided a perfect way for the Seattle franchise to win its first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Seattle became the 1st team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to led the league in points allowed (231), yards allowed (4,378) and takeaways (39).
3) 1985 Chicago Bears (January 26, 1986)
Best known as the “Monsters of the Midway,” the Chicago Bears were on a mission for their first NFL title since 1963 and first title in the Super Bowl Era.
After finishing the regular season at 15-1, the Bears breezed through the playoffs on their way to New Orleans to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Bears set a Super Bowl record with seven sacks and the fewest rushing yards allowed with seven total.
In all, Chicago created six turnovers (2 interceptions and 4 fumbles) with one resulting in a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by Reggie Phillips. Super Bowl XX’s MVP, Richard Dent, tallied 1.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and blocked a pass. The 46-10 drumming of the Patriots was at the time the most dominating performance from start to finish in a Super Bowl.
The famed “46” defense — named after the number of ex-Bear Doug Plank by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan — brought constant pressure and created havoc for opposing quarterbacks courtesy of the likes of Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Wilber Marshall, Otis Wilson and rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
Chicago lead the NFL in scoring defense (198), allowing an average of 12.4 points per game, it was first in turnover differential (+23) and created four total shutouts in the regular Season (Atlanta, Dallas) and playoffs (New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams). Coach Mike Ditka would win coach of the Year while Mike Singletary would win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
FUN FACT: The Super Shuffle song was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1986.
2) 2000 Baltimore Ravens (January 28, 2001)
With a 12-4 regular season thanks in large part to the defense, the Ravens made it their mission to make it to Tampa, Fla and win that franchise’s 1st Super Bowl.
The NFC champion New York Giants didn’t know what was going to hit them in this showdown. Baltimore forced six turnovers (4 interceptions and 2 fumbles) and four sacks, including two from defensive lineman Michael McCrary. Defensive back Duane Starks returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to break the game wide open.
Super Bowl XXXV MVP honors was given to Ray Lewis and the 34-7 victory was considered to be the best defensive performance in NFL history and this unit has the numbers to backup their case to be considered the best defense of all time. The Ravens gave up 970 rushing yards (60.6 per game) an NFL record for a 16-game season and gave up only five total rushing touchdowns while yielding 2.7 yards per rush.
Also, the Ravens allowed 165 points all season, an NFL record for a 16-game season while recovering 26 fumbles and ranking 7th against the pass. While Baltimore wasn’t wholly accepted by America due to off the field issues of Ray Lewis and its swirl around this Super Bowl, this unit displayed toughness, swagger and the attitude to dominate a game from start to finish.
FUN FACT: Greg Gumbel (CBS) became the 1st African-American play by play voice to call a Super Bowl during this game.
1) 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers (January 18, 1976)
It was the start of one of the NFL’s best dynasties as the Steelers were on their way to a second consecutive title by taking Super Bowl X against the Dallas Cowboys in Miami.
Quarterback sacks were not officially considered a statistic until 1982, but the famed “Steel Curtain” led by “Mean” Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and L.C. Greenwood were fearless and caused major headaches for opposing players and quarterbacks, their highlights show that they would be among the most prolific sackers ever in the NFL.
In their Super Bowl X victory over the Cowboys, Pittsburgh sacked Cowboys QB Roger Staubach seven times and forced three interceptions. The momentum swing occurred when Cowboys safety Cliff Harris taunted Steelers kicker Rot Gerela before Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert came to the defense of his teammate and threw Harris to the ground.
That moment displayed a level of toughness and unity which the Steelers were known for during their four-title run of the 1970’s. Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win over the Cowboys would be their first of two wins over Dallas during the 70’s. The Steelers allowed a total of 162 points (11.6 points per game) for a 14-game season while defensive back Mel Blount received the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award thanks to his 11 interceptions.
If you’re an NFL fan after reading this list, you know as well as I do that countless debates will be ongoing for a long time to come sorting the greatness of the teams I have listed, and of course, listing a few teams that were left off this list. What will this year’s golden anniversary of the Super Bowl bring between Denver and Carolina? Could we see another anointing of an all-time defense? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Now that you’ve read my list, who do you see as best in your opinion? Is my list fair or foul? Let us know here at WARR. As we as fans, media experts alike, we all have our thoughts and opinions, so let’s debate!
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; follow Sidney on Twitter @sidkid8