Pro football's Bears defense is scary, but not scariest

Nov 6, 2012 3:10 AM

This Bears defense is scary.

They don’t just prevent yards and points. They are taking the ball away from the offense and scoring themselves at an unprecedented rate, returning seven interceptions for touchdowns through eight games.

The 1961 Chargers returned nine INT’s the entire season.

I know those records count but, come on, it was the AFL. There were all kinds of crazy things happening.

The 1998 Seahawks tallied eight pick-6’s. Two other teams have seven. Those are season totals that the Bears have hit at the halfway mark.

The second half of the Bears schedule is much more difficult than the first. Of course to simply multiply the current statistics by two would be silly. However there are some inexperienced quarterbacks on the menu that will have Brian Urlacher & Co. salivating like a grizzly in a butcher shop. (Rookie Russell Wilson, the John Skelton/Kevin Kolb entry and Christian Ponder twice. Yum-yum.)

If you look at pure yardage and points allowed, the San Francisco 49ers actually have some better numbers. As solid as that 49ers defense is, they don’t inspire the fear the Bears defense does. Whether one helps a team win more than the other I’m really not sure at this point.

Last season, the Giants were playing their best defense during their Super Bowl run. The season before, the Packers and Steelers made their Super Bowl appearances largely due to excellent defense.

As much as we look at offense being the key to modern football, defenses can still carry a team. I give the Bears the nod right now, but I’m not falling asleep on the 49ers. If anyone is going to challenge them in the tough NFC they will either have to overcome one of these two defenses or play some great defense themselves.

While we are speaking of defense, let’s take a quick peak at some of the best defenses in the NFL’s modern era.

The 1985 Bears get a lot of votes as the greatest defense of all time. They had that one great season. Terrific. Where is the staying power?

It’s like my wife, not the world’s greatest cook, perfectly broiling my rib-eye medium rare, baking me a potato, roasting an ear of corn just how I like it, tossing me a salad then declaring herself the greatest chef of all time because she produced one of my favorite meals.

Sorry. That’s nice. I appreciate it, but this only partially makes up for the typical meal that uses the smoke alarm in lieu of an oven timer.

That’s what the Bears did in 1985. They were revolutionary. Teams had no idea how to attack a defense that was attacking their offense. They shut out two playoff opponents, then held the Patriots to seven yards rushing in the Super Bowl. But one Super Bowl appearance and see ya later.

They don’t get my vote.

The 2000 Ravens did the same thing – great defense whose legacy carried on for a decade. They pitched four shutouts and surrendered 11 points a game. In four playoff games they allowed 23 total points, but only one Super Bowl. Nice effort, fellas.

Next – The Purple People Eaters. The nickname alone puts them near the top. The Minnesota Vikings of the late 60s and early 70s never won a Super Bowl, but don’t let that effect your perception of their greatness. From 1969 through 1971 they allowed 9.5, 10.2 and 9.9 points per game. That was one hell of a defense.

But I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler fan. Born and bred in the City Of Champions. I know the Steel Curtain of the ‘70s is the greatest defense of all time. Luckily I have the facts behind me. Even if I didn’t, like a good (insert a political party’s name here) I would never let the truth get in the way of my beliefs.

The 1976 version of the Steelers gave up 28 points in their last nine games of the season – the greatest defensive run ever. They did it because they had to. They had opened the season 1-4 then Terry Bradshaw got hurt. There was no margin for error and they allowed none.

In case you lost your NFL history book, the Steelers won four Super Bowls in a six year period. The league changed rules to combat their effectiveness. They had Hall Of Famers Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount. Pro Bowlers L.C Greenwood, J.T. Thomas, Glen Edwards, Mike Wagner and Andy Russell.

The Steelers offense had a few guys whose busts appear in Canton (Bradshaw, Mike Webster, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth) but make no mistake, they were a team defined by their defense.

The Bears, and maybe even the 49ers, are making some nice efforts and honestly it would be hard to compare this era to the other teams I mentioned. One of them might emerge as a truly memorable defense but it will take some doing to match these all-time greats.

Chris Andrews has over 30 years of experience as a bookmaker in Nevada. You can follow him on Twitter@AndrewsSports. Chris has a dedicated thread in the Pregame.com forums, answering your questions and more. Contact Chris at [email protected].

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