Anyone who knows me as a fan knows I love defense. I’ve always been an advocate of big hits and straight up smash-mouth football. There have been plenty of dominating defensive units throughout the history of the league.
Two that immediately came to mind when I decided to match up defenses are the “Monsters of the Midway” Chicago Bears of 1985 and the “X-Men” Baltimore Ravens of 2000.
Both defenses were the catalysts for their teams that won Super Bowls. Both were stacked at nearly every position. But which defense was better? Let’s find out!
The Monsters of the Midway: The 1985 Chicago Bears
The 1985 Bears overall as a team are ranked the second best Super Bowl team in history by NFL Network. During that historic season, they compiled a record of 15-1 (regular season) on their way to eventually mugging the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX by a score of 46-10.
In the two playoff games it took to make it to the big dance, the defense pitched shutouts beating the Giants 21-0 and the Rams 24-0. Which tallies up to allowing a mere 10 points in 12 quarters of post-season play.
Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, and then rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry anchored their ferocious defense, while RB Walter Payton and QB Jim McMahon carried the load on offense. Mike Ditka was the head coach of that team and is a NFL legend, but the real genius was defensive coördinator Buddy Ryan.
The X-Men: The 2000 Baltimore Ravens
Before I began researching this team I had no idea they were nicknamed “X-Men.” It’s because these guys looked like super-heroes when playing defense. Led by Ray Lewis, this defensive unit was named the 3rd all time in a list compiled in 2007 by ESPN. The 2000 Ravens still hold the record in rushing yards allowed (970) throughout the course of a 16 game season.
They were no slouches outside of Lewis either, as DB’s Chris McAlister and Rod Woodson, LB Peter Boulware, and DL’s Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams made this unit a fearless and talented one at nearly every position.
The main and biggest difference in my opinion between the two teams is the Ravens had a very average, if not below average, offense. I doubt many would agree that Trent Dilfer was a franchise quarterback, in fact he wasn’t even the starter the following season.
That tells me this defense really had to carry the load for the team to win games, and they did exactly that. They ended up 12-4, blew through the AFC Playoffs, and dismantled the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV by a 34-7 score. The season this defense had put defensive coördinator and current Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis on the football map.
DEFENSIVE STATISTICS: 1985 Bears
Takeaway differential: +23 Points allowed: 198 Passing Yards Allowed: 2,816 Passing Touchdowns
Allowed: 16 Rushing Yards Allowed: 1,319 (3.7 YPC) Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 6 Interceptions: 34
DEFENSIVE STATISTICS: 2000 Ravens
Takeaway differential: +23 Points allowed: 165 Passing Yards Allowed: 2,997 Passing Touchdowns
Allowed: 11 Rushing Yards Allowed: 970 (2.7 YPC) Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 5 Interceptions: 23
Despite the bigger names on the ’85 Bears defense, I think the nod clearly goes to the 2000 Ravens in this showdown. Not only did they put up as a majority better defensive numbers, they also didn’t have the luxury of a Hall of Fame running-back like Walter Payton on offense to balance out responsibilities. The 2000 Ravens defense was the only reason they made it so far and won a Super Bowl. Without that unit being so dominant, you can rest assured Trent Dilfer would not even have sniffed the playoffs after supplanting Tony Banks at QB.
The 2000 Ravens also faced a much more stellar Giants team in the Super Bowl, where the Bears got a cake walk when the Patriots somehow weaseled their way into the big game.
Of course, this does not minimize how great the ’85 Bears were. But since 1985, the game itself has evolved. There are faster and bigger players at every position, so it amazes me that as we entered the new millennium the Ravens proved that defense still wins championships. Doing this versus article has made me wonder how well the ’85 Bears would do against the high-powered offenses that now dominate the game today.
Sadly, we will never know. But these two defenses forever have their places etched into NFL lore, and I am curious to see what defense of today will step up and have a dominating season to once again prove that defense, above all, is the most important thing in the game of football.
Senior Writer: Jim Racalto
Follow me on Twitter: @HurricaneJ22
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