We’ve all heard the coach speak: Defense wins championships. But you know what? You can take it a step further: Defense piles up Super Bowls. How many times have we seen high-flying, circus-act offenses entertain the fans in the regular season, only to succumb to good defenses in the postseason? Fans can put NFL Super Bowl bets on a strong defense being the difference.
Also, how many times have we seen stellar defenses receive just a tad bit extra help from their offenses — and flourish immediately? We saw that with the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So to get to the Super Bowl, it really helps to have a great defense. But which defenses have been the most stellar in the 50-plus year history of the big game? We took a look and listed the five we thought jumped out most. Do you agree?
1969 MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Some may question why a team that lost in the Super Bowl made this list. That’s simple: The Vikings gave up only 9.5 points per game in the 1969 season. Though they did end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, the Purple People Eaters had one of the best defensive eras of all time.
In fact, three of the Top 10 statistical defenses of all time hail from this franchise’s heyday — 1969, 1970, and 1971. Standout defensive tackle Alan Page was just one great player on this defense, and he went on to the NFL Hall of Fame.
1972 MIAMI DOLPHINS: The No-Name Defense was stellar on its side of the ball. The Dolphins finished the regular season a perfect 14-0 (prior to 16-game regular seasons) and then won three straight in the postseason to finish 17-0 overall. Only three times in those 17 games did Miami give up more than 20 points. Future NFL Hall of Famers Dick Anderson (at safety) and Bill Stanfill (at defensive end) were on the team.
1985 CHICAGO BEARS: The funny thing is, the Bears’ defense had been strong before 1985. It was the offense that kept the franchise out of the Super Bowl. But the defense, under guru coordinator Buddy Ryan, stifled opponents all year. In the postseason alone, Chicago had shutout wins the first two games, then gave up only 10 points in the Super Bowl.
In fact, out of 19 total games that year, the Bears held opponents to 10 points or less an eye-popping 14 times. Standouts Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, and Mike Singletary all made the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. Because of this Bears defense, the NFL betting lines prior to the game had Chicago as a heavy favorite.
2000 BALTIMORE RAVENS: With all of the high-flying offenses of the past few decades, it’s hard to imagine a team in the 2000s holding opponents to only 10.3 points per game. But that is exactly what the Ravens did in their Super Bowl Championship season of 2000.
After going 12-4 in the regular season and needing an AFC Wild Card berth to get into the playoffs, the Ravens went on a four-game defensive tear. They allowed only 23 total points in four games, easily disposing of the New York Giants (34-7) in the big finale. Future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis led the unit with 137 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.
2002 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Much like the 1985 Bears (listed above), this Bucs team struggled for years to get over the playoff hump. Why? Because the offense would sputter at the most critical times. The defense truly wasn’t the issue. Once the offense was slightly above average, the team roared to a Super Bowl win.
The Bucs gave up a paltry 12.3 points per game during the regular season, and in the postseason, they mirrored that number with just 37 points given up in three games. Defensive standouts Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, and Warren Sapp all ended up being NFL Hall of Fame inductees.
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered college football for HERO Sports, and wrote for so many newspapers he lost count. Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.