Yesterday in an NFL.com article, Gil Brandt ranked the top 5 defensive units of all time. Before I tell you why I disagree with Brandt at the top of the list, I would like to preface it with the acknowledgment that Brandt is absolutely an expert. He is one of the greatest football minds we have. As an executive with the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1989, he has a keen knowledge of the game. He knows the NFL Draft inside and out and there isn’t a better historian of the game than Brandt. That being said, I have to argue with the list slightly.
The 1985 Bears topped Brandt’s list. It’s not surprising that they do, as they are considered by many to be the greatest defense of all time. The 2000 Ravens defense was ranked second on this list. The 2000 Ravens defense in my opinion was the greatest defense of all time. This list probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much but people continually say that the 1985 Bears were the best. No they were the second best.
I have previously written about why the 2000 Ravens were the best overall defensive unit. In this article I will focus on how the Ravens were better than the Bears. I know just where to begin in my argument, the score board.
Defense is ultimately about preventing the other team from scoring. Therefore points allowed are the most telling statistic. If they don’t score, they don’t win the old saying goes. The Ravens allowed the fewest points ever in a 16 game season. They averaged 10.3 points allowed per game which is better statistically than the 1985 Bears. The Ravens averaged 247.9 yards per game while the Bears averaged 258.4 yards per game. Here I am just re-using the stats Brandt provided in his article and it is proving my point.
The Bears defense was revolutionary at its time. The 46 Bear defense was something many teams in the NFL had no clue how to stop. With a man over both guards and the center the and two linebackers right on top of them, it was almost impossible to run the football. It also allowed quick pass rush. But the west coast offense helped make the 46 defense a more seldom used front. Slant routes and other quick passes ended up being the doom of this defense.
Mike Singletary was amazing. Buddy Ryan was a genius. I have nothing but respect for the 1985 Bears defense. I have nothing but respect for Brandt. But I cannot call the Bears defense better than the 2000 Ravens. In the words of Mike Singletary (in his coaching days) “Can’t do it… Can’t do it,” and while both units happen to be winners, the 2000 Ravens happen to be the most impressive winner.
There was no linebacker greater than a young Ray Lewis. He roamed sideline to sideline. But Brandt made my argument for me in his post:
"“Consider that the offense, which really only had one legitimate threat in running back Jamal Lewis, scored 16 points or less in nine of the team’s 20 games (including the playoffs). And yet, the Ravens and their top-ranked scoring defense qualified for a wild-card berth, then won three playoff games”"
Yes the offense of the Ravens was awful. Its okay to say it was the worst offense ever to win a Super Bowl, because it probably was. Trent Dilfer may have managed the game but he certainly didn’t make it easy for the Ravens defense. The 1985 Bears offense was much better than the 2000 Ravens offense. Jamal was good but Walter Payton probably was the best running back to ever play.
So when you look at the statistics and the records held by the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears its hard to argue for the Bears. When you look at which defense had to do more for their team, the Ravens defense had to carry the team entirely throughout the season. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Brandt. He is actually an idol of mine. But this is something I am passionate about. The 2000 Ravens defense was the best of all time.