(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 (http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/other-sports/moresports/2016/02/07/gosselin-think-denver-broncos-defensive-performance-super-bowl-50-impressive-1985-chicago-bears-win). 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:
SUPER BOWL XLVIII
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.
SUPER BOWL XLII
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.
SUPER BOWL XXXVII
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.
SUPER BOWL XXXV
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.