What do the 1985 Chicago Bears, 1990 New York Giants, and 2000 Baltimore Ravens all have in common? They were all ranked in the top 10 defenses of NFL history. The allowed few yards, and even fewer points, while racking up the sacks. So, exactly how good were these teams? Let us take a look…
1985 Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears of 1985 had some fearsome leaders on their roles. DE Richard Dent and LB Otis Wilson were two of the team’s leaders combining for a total of 27.5 sacks, five interceptions, and four fumble recoveries. This was also the team of legendary player Mike Singletary. Altogether during the regular season this defensive unit allowed only 198 total points, 258.4 yards/game, and 4.4 yards/play.
At the conclusion of the ’85 season this Bears defensive unit had held opponents to 198 points, 258.4 yards/game, and 4.4 yards/play. They finished the season ranked number one on defense and took their team all the way to a Super Bowl victory. Oh, by the way, did I mention that in the playoffs they held teams to an average of 3.3 points/game?!?
1990 New York Giants
LB Lawrence Taylor, LB Pepper Johnson, and NT Erik Howard were all names associated with the 1990 New York Giants defense. Between the three players there were 17 sacks, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. This was the second best defensive unit in the ’90 regular season. They allowed opposing offenses 211 total points, for an average of 13.2 points/game. They also held offenses to a meager 4.6 yards/play.
Much like the ’85 Bears, however, this was a defensive unit that also helped carry its team to a Super Bowl victory (albeit barely). In the postseason the Giants held teams to an average of 11.7 points/game. Although, their game statistics dropped when they allowed 281 yards/game for an average of 5.7 yards/play. Still, though, they came away with a Super Bowl victory when they squeaked by the Buffalo Bills 20-19.
2000 Baltimore Ravens
While LB Ray Lewis was a member of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens team he was not, in fact, one of the best defensive players they had (in my opinion) at that time. Rather, that honor goes to DE Michael McCrary, LB Peter Boulware, and DE Rob Burnett. These three men accumulated 23.5 sacks, eight fumble recoveries, and an interception in 2000. Now, do not get me wrong, Lewis was still a huge contributor to the team with his three sacks, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries…but he was overshadowed by his predecessors. The defense, as a whole, allowed 165 total points, 247.9 yards/game and 4.3 yards/play.
The 2000 Ravens, like the ’85 Bears and ’90 Giants, had a defensive unit that carried them to the Super Bowl. In the 2000 post-season they held opponents to a total of 23 points and an average of 209.3 yards/game. Their most definitive stat, though, is the astounding +10 turnover rate – in the post-season alone! The handily beat the New York Giants 34-7 and sealed their place in defensive history.
2011 Houston Texans
The 2011 Houston Texans showed, this year, that they are a defensive unit on the rise. They finished the regular season second in defense allowing opponents 278 total points, 285.7 yards/game, and an average of 4.8 yards/play. The team’s defense also finished with 44 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries and 17 interceptions. One thing that this team has that is different from all of the other great defenses is youth! The oldest defensive player this year was DE Antonio “The Ninja” Smith who is 30 years young. Out of all of their defensive starters, five of them are 25 years or younger. This team can only get better from here.
In the 2011 post-season the Texans defense showed why they should be considered among the best. They allowed an average of 22 points/game, had nine sacks, 19 passes deflected, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. By the way, this defensive unit did all of this after being ranked 30th overall in defense the year prior and with a shortened off-season due to the player lockout.
Overall, the Texans are a defensive unit that will continue to grow as one body. They have all of the right weapons in place to make a run for the Super Bowl and all they are waiting for is the injury bug to move on to some other team. When that happens the NFL had better be on alert because this team will be a steamroller in the league. For years the Texans have been mocked as the “dark horse” or the “little engine that couldn’t” but this year they proved otherwise.
I expect great things from the Texans defense next year and, ahem…predict that they could have one of the best defensive units in recent history next year!