Broncos best Super defense since ’85 Bears? You decide

Denver Broncos DeMarcus Ware (94) on defense during fourth quarter action against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL game at Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO September 27, 2015. (Photo: Ã Eric Lars Bakke/ Denver Broncos)

(Demarcus Ware photo courtesy of Denver Broncos)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

There was a reason Cam Newton pouted after losing Super Bowl 50. He’d been beaten … and not just on the scoreboard.

Newton and his teammates were bullied by an aggressive, physical and relentless Denver Broncos’ defense that crushed him, hurt him, frustrated him and intimidated him. It roughed up his receivers, too, forcing them to drop passes — and, in the end, forced Cam and the Panthers to surrender.

Result: Another triumph of DOA … Defense Over Altitude … and what we’re left to ask is this: Was that the best defensive performance in recent Super Bowl history? Our Rick Gosselin thinks so, and he said as much in Monday’s Dallas Morning News  ( At least, he thought it was the best since the Bears in Super Bowl XX.

But I’m not so sure.

I liked what the Giants did to unbeaten New England in Super Bowl XLII … and what Tampa Bay did to Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII … and I especially liked what Seattle did to Denver two years ago. They’re among the contenders for the best Super Bowl performance by a defense in the last three decades, and the polls are open, people.

You make the choice:


Seattle 43, Denver 8

In the first-ever Super Bowl in the greater New York area, the Denver Broncos were supposed to demolish the league’s No. 1-ranked offense. Reason: They had MVP Peyton Manning and the highest-scoring offense in NFL history. So, a rout was expected, and a rout was delivered. Except it was Denver that was demolished. Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense scored more points (9) than Denver’s offense, with game MVP Malcolm Smith returning a Manning interception for a touchdown and the Seahawks forcing an early safety. Manning was sacked only once, but he was harassed again and again, and so were his receivers – with safety Kam Chancellor setting the tone early by sand-blasting Demaryius Thomas as he crossed the middle for a short catch. The message was clear: Enter at your own risk. Denver didn’t score until Seattle had put 33 on them, and by then the party was over.


N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14

The Patriots entered as a 12-point favorite, and for good reason. They hadn’t lost in 18 games and were on the verge of making history with the league’s most prolific offense and league MVP Tom Brady, who threw for a record 50 touchdowns. After putting up 73 combined points in the season finale, the two teams managed only 10 through three quarters – with the Giants pulling one of the Super Bowl’s greatest upsets when Eli Manning found Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone in the last minute. But that wasn’t the story. Neither was David Tyree’s miraculous 32-yard catch with his helmet to set up that score. The Giants’ defense was, holding the Patriots to one score until just under three minutes were left. It sacked Brady five times, forced a fumble and stifled an offense that, until now, couldn’t be stopped to produce one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history.


Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21

Like Super Bowl XLVIII, this featured the league’s No. 1-ranked offense vs. its top-ranked defense, and I don’t need to tell you what happened. Uh-huh, another mismatch. Tampa Bay intercepted league MVP Rich Gannon five times, returning three for touchdowns, and sacked him five times as the Bucs jumped to an insurmountable 34-3 lead by the second half. Critics argue this one doesn’t qualify among great defensive stands because Oakland wound up with 21 points, but, c’mon, people. The Bucs scored as many touchdowns with their defense as the Raiders did with Gannon. Nope, correction: They scored more. One of Oakland’s late touchdowns was a return of a blocked punt. The Bucs’ defense absolutely dominated, with Gannon so rattled afterward that he described his performance as “nightmarish.” I’d say that’s about right.


Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7

OK, so the Baltimore Ravens didn’t shut down a league MVP or the NFL’s highest-scoring offense. They beat Kerry Collins. But the New York Giants had just buried Minnesota, 41-0, in the conference championship game and were a three-point underdog. Then the game started, and the carnage began – with the Ravens flexing their muscles. One of the most intimidating defenses in league history paralyzed its opponent, allowing only 152 yards in offense, with five sacks and four turnovers. What’s more, all 16 of the Giants’ possessions ended with either punts or interceptions, with the exception of the last one. That ended the game, with the Giants the first team since the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII not to score an offensive TD.

Previous Super Judgements: What part of defense don't owners, GMs get?
Next The greatest Super Bowl performance of all time? It's your call


  1. Rasputin
    February 9, 2016

    What? What about the #1 ranked 1992 Cowboys defense? They crushed the high powered #2 ranked Bills offense after going through the #1 49ers and #7 ranked Eagles’ offenses. The Bills were in the middle of their unequaled 4 consecutive AFC championships run. In the Super Bowl Dallas won 52-17, setting the record for most turnovers forced with 9, knocked one HoF QB out with a violent sack and sacked the backup (who was also good and had led the Bill’s historic comeback against Houston a few weeks earlier) multiple times too. Both QBs were harassed, hurried, and hit all day, and the Cowboys caught 4 interceptions.
    HoF RB Thurman Thomas (who had averaged 92.9 yards/game that year) was shut down and held to 19 yards, getting outgained by Troy Aikman.
    The only legitimate Bills offensive TD came after a blocked punt set them up near the goal line, and was more on the special teams. In the late third quarter Bills QB Frank Reich stepped over the line of scrimmage and threw a long TD pass, which was illegal back then. The NFL office would later confirm that a flag should have been thrown. The Bills were held to 10 legit points, most of them set up by a special teams play.
    The Cowboys defense scored 2 touchdowns, and was millimeters away from scoring a third one if not for Lett’s premature celebration. Plus there was that signature sequence where Dallas successfully made a goal line stand.
    The Cowboys had annihilated a good Eagles team in the playoffs, sacking the mobile Randall Cunningham 5 times and not giving up a garbage time TD until the game was 34-3, making the final 34-10. They beat a 49ers team on the road when San Francisco had one of the most talented offenses in NFL history, sacking Steve Young 3 times and intercepting him twice.
    Overall the 1992 Cowboys had an historically great defense that only allowed 245.7 yards/game that year, the fifth lowest yearly mark of all NFL teams since 1979 (and lower than the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens, btw, though I’m not arguing the unit was quite as dominant as those two were; the 70s Doomsday defense was better though). They don’t get the credit they deserve, in part because they were overshadowed by a versatile, unstoppable offense that ranks as one of the greatest of all time. It took both units to accomplish the unprecedented feat of winning 3 SBs in 4 years in the Great Team Era.

  2. Rasputin
    February 9, 2016

    As for this Super Bowl, it featured two historically average offenses that ranked mid pack this year and two really good defenses, the Broncos’ defense possibly being borderline great. Carolina was a little better on offense and the Broncos were a little better on defense. The game largely played out like I thought it would in terms of being a low scoring affair. The Broncos defense had an outstanding game and it was fun to watch them play, but I don’t think it was as good as Seattle’s win a few years ago, let alone the best of the past 30 years. BTW, Cam Newton had a good year but shouldn’t have received the MVP. I have a hard time giving that award to the QB of a defense carried team in the Parity Era.

    • February 9, 2016

      Ah, Rasputin. Hate to break the news to you but one of those “historically average offenses” scored 500 points this season.

      • Rasputin
        February 9, 2016

        I hate to break it to you, Ron, but that offense ranked 11th this year. And the TEAM scored 500 points, but that’s aided by defense and special teams, and that once eye popping number doesn’t mean as much as it used to due to the massive stat inflation of this era. Yardage figures are used to rank “total” defense and offense because they better isolate the unit than points do.

        The bottom line is that Carolina’s offense wasn’t even in the top 10 this year in total offense.

  3. Rich Quodomine
    February 12, 2016

    I hate hate hate to agree with Rasputin, because I’m a Bills fan who watched every minute of that debacle but he’s right. That D was fantastic. It had, among others, Russell Maryland, Charles Haley, Ken Norton, Leon Lett, Bill Bates (as an aging reserve), Darren Woodson and Jim Jeffcoat. Back when Wannstedt had a clue, he sent out waves of DL in rotation to increase the speed of the line, while keeping it fresh frustrating Kelly immeasurably. I hate to give the Cowboys any credit whatsoever, mostly out of jealousy-based respect, but they were great. The Bills ran 50.5% of the time, on average between 1988-1994 (aka the GLory Years). Yes, Kelly is a Hall of Famer, but the Bills were, especially in December, a run-first team. To give you an idea: THe bills rushed 29 times, but for only 108 yards, an average of just over 3. They threw 38 times, but were sacked 4 times, pressured a lot of others, and only got 254 Net yards on those passes, a bit north of 6 ypa. The Cowboys absolutely deserve to be in that conversation, and it is killing me to say it. (All stats courtesy:

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.