NFL cliche defense wins championship still holds up

Oct 20, 2015 3:00 AM

So what do you prefer: offense or defense? Most casual bettors examining football like offense, which is why Monday night football games often take more action on the OVER.

And they may point to the Super Bowl, where the offensive show of the Patriots topped the dominant Seattle defense, 28-24. However, that game could have gone either way and Seattle owned a 24-14 lead with 8 minutes left. Let’s not forget the Pats had their best defensive team in years with the additions to Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.

There have been some terrific college offensive football teams the last decade, such as Oregon and USC, along with pro passing attacks like the no-huddle Colts, Eagles and Pats.

However, name the last few Super Bowl winners? The Seahawks, Ravens, Giants (twice), Packers, Saints, Steelers (twice), Colts, Pats (four times) and Bucs.

The Patriots have been bounced in the playoffs in recent years by better defensive teams like the Giants, Ravens and Broncos – until they added two key stars to the secondary last year and won it all. Three years ago they were favored but the better defensive team (Baltimore) shut them down and went on to win the Super Bowl.

That Ravens team used their experienced defense to make a remarkable run through the postseason, upsetting the far better offensive teams (Broncos, Patriots), then came up with a goal line stand to win the Super Bowl. How appropriate.

Five years ago everyone was impressed with the high flying Green Bay offense, but their defense was very talented under Dom Capers. The Pack ranked fifth both in total defense and against the pass. The team they beat in the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh, was second in total defense and No. 1 against the run. The Packers defense has slipped since and they have not returned to the Super Bowl.

Defense, in all sports, doesn’t get the publicity a flashy, exciting offense does, but there is so much truth in that age-old adage “Defense wins championships.” Pittsburgh won four Super Bowl titles in six years from 1975-80 with Hall-of-Famers Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris on offense. But the cornerstone of that run was a defense for the ages led by L.C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and Jack Ham.

Note that six of the last 13 Super Bowl champions had major deficiencies on offense, yet won with strong all-around defenses. Two years ago the Ravens were 16th in total offense, and in an age where passing is all the rage they ranked only 15th in passing. Three years ago the Giants were dead last in rushing the football.

Many laughed at the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 when they went five straight games without an offensive touchdown, but the Ravens laughed all the way to the Super Bowl, going 14-5-1 against the spread dominating with a ferocious defense.

Two years ago the Seahawks were a defensive powerhouse and dominated the favored Broncos in the Super Bowl, 43-8.

Here are the defensive rankings of the last 16 Super Bowl champions and their spread marks:

1996 Packers: 12-6-1 ATS, No. 1 (4th rushing, 1st passing);

1997 Broncos: 13-7 ATS, No. 5 (16th rushing, 5th passing);

1998 Broncos: 12-7 ATS, No. 11 (3rd rushing, 25th passing);

1999 Rams: 14-4-1 ATS, No. 6 (1st rushing, 23rd passing);

2000 Ravens: 14-5-1 ATS, No. 2 (1st rushing, 9th passing);

2001 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS, No. 24 (18th rushing, 24th passing);

2002 Bucs: 12-6 ATS, No. 1 (6th rushing, 1st passing);

2003 Patriots: 14-4-1 ATS, No. 7 (3rd rushing, 18th passing);

2004 Patriots: 13-5-1 ATS, No. 9 (6th rushing, 17th passing);

2005 Steelers: 13-7 ATS, No. 4 (3rd rushing, 16th passing);

2006 Colts: 12-8 ATS, No. 15 (32nd rushing, 3rd passing);

2007 Giants: 14-6 ATS, No. 7 (8th rushing, 11th passing);

2008 Steelers: 11-8 ATS, No. 1 (2nd rushing, 1st passing);

2009 Saints: 10-9 ATS, No. 25 (21st rushing, 26th passing);

2010 Packers: 12-8 ATS, No. 5 (18th rushing, 5th passing);

2011 Giants: 13-7 ATS, No. 5 (19th rushing, 29th passing);

2012 Ravens: 10-9-1 ATS, No. 17 (17th rushing, 17th passing);

2013 Seahawks: 13-6 ATS, No. 1 (No. 7 vs. rush, No. 1 vs. pass);

2014 Patriots: 11-8 ATS, (No. 13 in yards, 8th in points, 9th vs. rush).

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Twitter: @JimFeistSports . Email: [email protected]