After dominating the most prolific passing attack in NFL history a lot of talk occurred as to just how good the Seahawks defense was in 2013. Do they rate as the best of all time? In interviewing Seahawks Cornerback Richard Sherman, ESPN's Ed Werder posed the question to Seattle's defensive leader. Sherman response was that as long as they were in the discussion, that's good enough.
Comparing eras, teams, match-ups and games can always be a difficult thing. In Superbowl XLVIII the Seahawks won the coin toss and chose to go on defense to give the ball to arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history. They shut out Peyton Manning until the final play of the third quarter, scoring the first 36 points of the game.
The 1985 Bears seem to remain as the standard to the best defense ever. The 2000 Ravens have also been in the discussion. Legendary Chicago Hall of Fame Football Writer Dan Pompeii did a great piece on the top ten defenses of all-time earlier this year for Sports in Earth. They ranked the 1985 Bears first, the 2000 Ravens third and the 2013 Seahawks fourth.
In Chicago it's blasphemous to assert than anyone other than the 1985 Bears can be in the discussion of the best defense ever. Whenever the Bears and Seahawks will play it's inevitable that the discussion of defense will come up. Which one is better?
The 1985 Bears were the first dominant defense that captured national attention. The Bears 198 points allowed in 1985 were 65 points better than the second place 49ers. The led the league in eight out of the 14 defensive categories.
According to Pompeii, the'85 Bears forced seven quarterback substitutions, had three future Hall of Famers (Hampton, Singletary and Dent) and had nine players that played in a pro bowl during their career. Add in Steve McMichael (third all-time in sacks among defensive lineman), Wilbur Marshall, Otis Wilson and hard hitting safeties Gary Fencik and Dave Duerson and the modern monsters of the midway were the most feared defense ever.
Marshall and Duerson's were in their first season as starters after Todd Bell and Al Harris held out in contract disputes. Bell was a pro-bowler in 1984.
Their accomplishments during the season are legendary. They had a seven game streak during the season of allowing one touchdown or less, had four regular season games without allowing a touchdown and scored four touchdowns on defense.
Their run through the postseason was the most dominant of the Superbowl era. They posted the only back to back playoff shutouts over the Giants and Rams in the divisional and NFC Championship games.
Their dominance culminated with probably the most dominating defensive performance in a Supebowl. They Bears held the Patriots to seven yards rushing, had seven sacks, forced six turnovers and allowed just 123 total yards while scoring nine points themselves. The Patriots didn't get into the end zone until the fourth quarter. By then the Bears had a 44-3 lead.
Tony Dungy who played for the great Steelers teams in the 1970's told Pompeii about the Bears defense.
"I've never seen a defense like that in terms of smothering people, not even letting them move the ball, let alone score,"
Pompeii interviewed former Vikings Quarterback and Bears QB coach and current Cowboys QB Coach Wade Wilson about the '85 Bears.
"I think the Bears were the best because they had a combination of talent and confusion that got you," - Wade Wilson
The Seahawks entered the Superbowl with so much confidence in their defense that after winning the toss, they chose to give the ball to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
The move paid off immediately. The Seahawks scored the quickest points in Superbowl history when the ball was snapped over Manning's head resulting in a safety and a 2-0 Seattle lead 12 seconds into the game.
That the Seahawks dismantled the greatest passing offense in NFL history. Denver has three turnovers, a safety, a turnover on downs and two punts on their first seven possessions. It took Denver until the last play of the third quarter to score their first points. By then the Seahawks had scored nine points on defense and seven on special teams.
Their playoff run was almost as impressive as the Bears. While their stats are not as impressive, the Seahawks faced a tougher road to the Superbowl than the Bears. They defeated two future Hall of Famers in Drew Brees and Manning and the defending NFC Champion 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
They allowed just 40 points in the three playoff games against two of the NFL's best passing offenses and its best rushing offense. They ranked first in ten defensive categories in 2013 and in the top ten in seven others.
The Superbowl domination wasn't just a one game occurrence. It was more like the culmination of a dominating season just like the Bears. Pompeii related:
"They allowed 14.4 points per game in a season when the league average was 23.4. They limited opponents to 5.82 yards per pass attempt in a year when the worst team, the Bucs, averaged 6.19 yards per pass. They were best in the league in points allowed, yards allowed, takeaways and opponent passer rating."
It's always hard to compare eras. In an era when passing has become the prevalent way of moving the ball, the Legion Of Boom was as dominant as it gets. The Seahawks 172 yards allowed through the air was 22 less than second place New Orleans.
Former Cowboy General Manager Gil Brandt spoke in Pompeii's article comparing the '13 Seahawks to the '85 Bears;
There weren't a lot of formations and motion and all of that. Football was simpler than it is now. It was man on man, so to speak. With all of the offensive looks now, it's harder. But I think if this defense had played in 1985 or any year, it would have been pretty good."
Conversely the Bears feared front seven with their dangerous pash rush and hard hitting safeties would challenge even the best passing offenses in the NFL.
The Bears remained a feared defense for the remainder of the 1980's and early 90's. The did not win another superbowl, but made five more playoff appearances with the core of that team.
It's hard to say which defense was better. One thing is certain, all of the great defenses will always be compared to the '85 Bears.
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