The Seattle Seahawks are now the Super Bowl champions. And they can thank their dominating defense for their incredible performance on the big stage. In fact, Seattle’s defense was nasty all year long. They didn’t allow many yards after catch, played physical with receivers and wreaked havoc when rushing the passer. The 43-6 drumming of the Broncos has many thinking this Seahawks defense is the most dominant of all-time. But are they really the best of all-time?
The Seahawks are in an era where defenses have been put at an extreme disadvantage. You cannot be as physical with receivers and there have been many rules in place that protect receivers when they are exposed to a big hit. Simply put, you almost have to give a receiver the catch when he is in a vulnerable position these days. But somehow, the Seahawks figured out how to take those rules and still be dominant. How they did it is something that is hard to duplicate. The biggest thing that helped their defensive secondary is the pass rush up front. Led by free-agent signings Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, the Seahawks were constantly getting pressure on the quarterback. And what was so special is they got pressure without having to blitz linebackers and safeties. But make no mistake, the defensive line was not the only thing that was special about this team. The Seahawks also had the biggest secondary in football. They had big cornerbacks, led by All-Pro Richard Sherman (6’3”), a playmaking safety in Earl Thomas and a hard-hitting strong safety in Cam Chancellor that’s bigger than many linebackers in the NFL (6’3”, 232 pounds). The size of this secondary coupled with the pressure of the defensive line made it hard for teams to throw against them with consistency. And with their effectiveness against the run, it made it hard for teams to even get a first down all year long. In this era, they were truly dominating this year.
Another dominating defense that comes to mind is the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. This defense was just downright physical. Of course, they played in an era different than Seattle’s. You could actually hit receivers then. But this defense was chalked full of veterans across the board. They had Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa up the middle. Both of these guys were space eaters, so no one was running the ball on them. And in the linebacker corps, you had one of the greatest linebackers of all-time, Ray Lewis, along with Jamie Sharper and Peter Boulware. To top it all off, you had an exciting young cornerback in Chris McAllister and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson at safety. This team was far and away the best against the run that I have ever seen live. And they were not shabby against the pass either. What made this defense so special is they knew they had to play at an extremely high level every single game for this team to win and they did just that each time out. That team won in spite of its offense. We all know that offense was all running back Jamal Lewis and sporadic pass completions by Trent Dilfer. In my opinion, their pass rush was not the same as the Seahawks, but they could stop the run way better than the Seattle, who allowed over 100 yards rushing per game this year.
But you cannot mention great defenses and not mention the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers. That crew, led by Mean Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood and Jack Ham, were incredible. Absolutely no one moved the ball on them at any time. They were not only one of the most dominating defenses of all-time, they were also one of the most feared. They inflicted pain on their opponents as they went on to victory. And this Steelers team gave up only 13.5 points per game compared to 14.4 points per game given up by Seattle. The Steelers also had their own shutdown corner in Mel Blount. The only difference in their dominance in comparison to Seattle’s is the passing game was not as prolific as it is now in the NFL. But you can never discount what amazing things they did as they rode that defense and that powerful offense to a Super Bowl victory against the Minnesota Vikings.
Three defenses in three different eras of football. All three were dominant in their own way in their time in football. The Seattle secondary and pass rush was downright scary. The overall dominance of the Ravens defense was legendary. And the Steelers defense set a standard in the 70’s that still stands for Pittsburgh today. If you had to pick one, which one would you take?