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Top Ten NFL Defenses of All Time

Find Out Which NFL Defenses Are the Best in League History

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In recent years, its been said that the NFL has morphed into a league in which offense is all that matters. If there’s one thing we learned during the 2013 NFL season, though, it’s that defense wins championships (and that Andrew Luck can grow a pretty fearsome neck beard). The Broncos may have had the No. 1 offense in league history last year, but the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom proved themselves on the day of the big game. Today, we’ll break down ten of the top defenses the NFL has ever seen. 


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Top Ten NFL Defenses of All Time


1. As per usual of late, we’ll lead off with Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan’s 1985 Bears. This Chicago squad was arguably the best blitzing team to ever grace the gridiron. Ryan’s 46 system was innovative and one-of-a-kind; offenses didn’t know what had hit them. It also didn’t hurt that the front seven featured multiple guys, including Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary, and Steve McMichael, who have since been inducted into the Hall of Fame.


2. The 1976 Steelers may not have gone to the Super Bowl, but they allowed just 28 total points in their final 9 games. The Steel Curtain was almost impenetrable; between Jack Lambert, “Mean Joe” Greene, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount, offenses were quaking in their cleats all season long. 


3. The 1971 Vikings D (better known as the Purple People Eaters) operated under the manta “Meet at the quarterback.” That’s really all you need to know about this formidable squad, who allowed less than 10 PPG on the season. The cornerstone of the Purple People Eaters was DE Alan Page, who become the first ever defensive player to earn MVP honors in the NFL. 


4. Ray Lewis’s 2000 Ravens carried an offense that really couldn’t get much done. They could defend the run like nobody’s business and allowed just 165 total points and 970 total yards (both NFL records) in a 16 game season. The cherry on top of this Ravens D’s phenomenal year was the fact that they allowed 0 points to be scored during Super Bowl XXXV (the Giants’ single TD was the result of a kick-off return). 


5. The 1969 Chiefs, under head coach Hank Stram, ran a unique “stack” defense that had linebackers position themselves directly behind O-linemen. Offenses simply didn’t know how to deal with this formation and it led Kansas City to take home the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl IV. It’s also worth noting that 5 members of this Chiefs D, including Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan, have already found their places in the Hall of Fame. 


6. The 2002 Buccaneers, under Tony Dungy, became just the second squad in NFL history to lead the league in fewest points allowed, number of interceptions, and total defense. On their way to winning Super Bowl XXXVII, the Bucs held 11 foes to 10 PPG or fewer. Oh, and it probably bears mentioning that two members of this team (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks) are already immortalized in the Hall of Fame and Coach Dungy and John Lynch were finalists for this year’s class. Not too shabby. 


7. While the 1975 (Los Angeles) Rams are not the only team in NFL history to call their D-line the “Fearsome Foursome,” they were the first and, probably, the most deserving. Jack Youngblood, Merlin Olsen, and Co. finished the season on a 6-0 hot streak, allowing just 5.3 points per contest.


8. The 1966 Packers, who ultimately won the league’s very first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967, featured a grand total of 6 future Hall of Famers on defense. This Green Bay squad was so indomitable and athletic that it held QBs to a 41.5 passer rating, which was much lower than the league average of 63.7. 


9. The 1990 Giants D featured the original LT, Lawrence Taylor, who managed to singlehandedly terrify offenses around the league. During the course of the regular season, this squad played 7 teams that would make it to the playoffs, yet still finished with an impressive 13-3 record. Taylor and Co. went onto win Super Bowl XXV by a single point over the Buffalo Bills.


10. Some may say it’s a little soon to include the 2013 Seahawks on this list, but I think Richard Sherman and Co. are sure to go down in history. Not many squads (read: no other squads) can say they’ve completely suffocated Peyton Manning’s No.1 offense on the NFL’s biggest stage. All season long, the Legion of Boom and the rest of the Seahawks’ D proved their worth, giving up the fewest points league-wide. I’d say they are more than deserving of a spot here (and I’m pretty sure that at least Seattle’s 12th Man will agree).

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