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Top 15 NFL Defenses Of All Time

NFL Defenses

What do you consider to be an excellent defense? Is it fewer points allowed, impressive records set, tackles made, or yards given up? And what does it take to be ranked among the top NFL defenses of all time? In this article, you’ll learn exactly what it takes to be ranked among the top NFL defenses.

It is difficult to maintain a defensive reputation in today’s world, as offenses garner the most attention. However, history shows that defense can help you win the game. As a result, we dug deep into the first year of the NFL, 1920, to provide you with the top NFL defenses in league history.

Top 15 NFL Defenses of All Time

The top defenses listed below were compiled using information from Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, and Ranker. Before we get into the details, let’s take a quick look at the names on the list.

Team Name
SeasonRecord
15. Minnesota Vikings196912-2
14. Denver Broncos197712-2
13. Dallas Cowboys197111-3
12. New York Giants198614-2
11. Dallas Cowboys197712-2
10. Miami Dolphins197214-0
9. Seattle Seahawks201313-3
8. Denver Broncos201512-4
7. Green Bay Packers196213-1
6. Kansas City Chiefs196911-3
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers200212-4
4. Baltimore Ravens200012-4
3. Philadelphia Eagles199110-6
2. Pittsburgh Steelers197610-4
1. Chicago Bears198515-1

15. 1969 Minnesota Vikings

The 1969 Minnesota Vikings led the league with a 12-2 record. Furthermore, the team had dependable defensive players who made certain that every pass made was intercepted. As a result, they intercepted 30 passing touchdowns and gave up only eight during the regular season.

Minnesota’s top linebacker, Bobby Bryant, averaged eight interceptions per game. Parsell Mackbee and Paul Krause were next, with five and four interceptions, respectively.

No wonder Minnesota ranked first in interceptions, passes, and yards allowed that season. As a result, they were the top defensive team in their division and the second best in the league.

Their defense was on full display in the Western Conference and NFL Championship games. They couldn’t, however, match the defensive ferocity displayed by the Kansas City Chiefs. As a result, they were defeated in Super Bowl IV by the Chiefs, 7-23. Despite the loss, the Vikings’ defense impressed the league.

14. 1977 Denver Broncos

In 1977, the Denver Broncos, a respectable NFL team, experienced a massive turn of events. For the first time since 1960, the team finished first in the West and advanced to the playoffs. The Broncos’ Orange Crush Defense, a 3-4 defense that they adopted in the late 1970s, made them nearly unbreakable.

Similarly, with this defensive strategy, Denver only allowed 10.6 points per game. As a result, they set a season-high with twelve wins and two losses. Furthermore, Denver faced the Steelers in the Division Playoffs and completely shut them down. Similar success followed as they won the AFC Championship by a score of 20-17.

However, despite an outstanding playoff run, they were defeated in the Super Bowl by the Dallas Cowboys, an iron wall on defense. Nonetheless, their defensive strategy made a big splash after an impressive postseason and regular season. The Orange Crush Defense is now ranked 15th among the top NFL defenses.

13. 1971 Dallas Cowboys

From 1966 to 1971, the Dallas Cowboys finished first in the East Division for the sixth time in a row. Nonetheless, they failed to win the Super Bowl the first five times.

However, the narrative quickly changed as they focused on their defense as much as their offense. Dallas had a solid team after adding some new defensive linemen.

The Cowboys’ defensive strategy was known as the Doomsday Defense, and it served as the foundation of their franchise. Until the late 1970s, this defense helped them win two of the five Super Bowls. Furthermore, Dallas introduced the Doomsday defense in the late 1960s, which had a significant impact on the 1971 season.

As a result, the 1971 Cowboys were experts at breaking up plays and pressuring quarterbacks. Not to mention, they had the highest interception rate that season.

As a result, it was no surprise when they annihilated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI after holding them to only three points all game. Furthermore, they held the record for not allowing their opponent to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl for 47 years.

12. 1986 New York Giants

After failing to retain the Super Bowl trophy on several occasions, the New York Giants introduced The Big Blue Wrecking Crew as their new defensive scheme. The 3-4 defense immediately showed the results, as they finished the season 14-2. Furthermore, with this defense, the Giants allowed only 14.8 points and 80.2 yards per game.

Similarly, they had 24 interceptions and 59 sacks. The total effect of this defense was seen in the NFC Championship when the Giants held the Redskins to exactly zero points.

As a result, they were the overwhelming favorite to win Super Bowl XXI against the Denver Broncos. However, they struggled in the first half but improved in the second.

Furthermore, they only allowed the Broncos to score one point in the second half until garbage time, allowing them to win 39-20. This victory earned the team its first Super Bowl appearance.

11. 1977 Dallas Cowboys

The 1977 Denver Broncos, ranked 14th on our list, faced only the 77 Dallas Cowboys. After showcasing their Doomsday defense in the first Super Bowl victory in 1971, they adopted a new defensive scheme.

Furthermore, the schema can be recognized as an evolved version of the Doomsday defense. As a result, the Cowboys dubbed it Doomsday defense II, and it was in use from 1975 to 1982.

They finished 12-2 to take first place in the East, thanks to their newly evolved defensive system. Dallas had no competition in the East as they dominated quickly.

Furthermore, for Super Bowl XII, Dallas faced a strong defensive team from the west, Denver. As a result, many fans were ecstatic to see such formidable defensive units in action. The Orange Crush defense was defeated by the Doomsday Defense II. As a result of forcing eight turnovers, the Cowboys dominated the game.

Furthermore, Dallas intercepted every pass except eight in the entire game. Denver only attempted to score a point in the third quarter. As a result of the Doomsday defense II, the Cowboys won their second Super Bowl.

10. 1972 Miami Dolphins

The 1972 Miami Dolphins were a freak show. They are the only NFL team on this list with a perfectly regular and postseason record. Furthermore, the 72 Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated from the first game to the Super Bowl.

They finished with a perfect 14-0 record and annihilated every team in the playoffs. Their defense was one of the best in the NFL at the time. Nobody could have figured out how to get around it. As a result, it was given the moniker “No-Name Defense.”

They held the Cleveland Browns to 14 points in the Division Playoffs. Similar senior performance against the Steelers in the AFC Championship, which they won 21-17.

However, they had a difficult second half in Super Bowl VII because they were completely shut down. Despite this, they had scored enough points in the first half to win the game. Fortunately, Miami’s defense was so strong that they only allowed the Redskins 7 points in the fourth quarter. As a result, they won the trophy with a 14-7 record.

9. 2013 Seattle Seahawks

The 2013 Seahawks finished the regular season with a double-digit win total for the first time in franchise history. They were first in the NFC West with a 13-3 record. That season, they were by far the best statistical team in the NFL. As a result, Seattle ranked first in points, yards, and takeaways allowed.

As a result, they ranked first in the NFL in defensive statistics. Furthermore, the Seahawks became only the second team in NFL history to lead the league in all three categories, following the Chicago Bears in 1985.

Similarly, they had a +186-point differential, which was by far the best in Seattle history. As a result, there was no team match for the Legion of Boom defense of the 2013 Seattle Seahawks.

They dominated their way to victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVII. Seattle’s defense was so strong that Denver only scored once in the third quarter. Furthermore, the Seahawks had built a 28-point lead.

As a result, it was one of the most extensive Super Bowl shutdowns in history. Furthermore, they finished the game with a 43-8 record, allowing Seattle to win its first championship. Similarly, it was the first time in Super Bowl history that a winning team scored 40 or more points while holding their opponent to less than ten.

8. 2015 Denver Broncos

The 2015 Denver Broncos reignited themselves after failing to prove themselves on the big stage numerous times. As a result, they are regarded as having one of the best NFL defenses of all time. The Broncos led all defensive categories, including total yards, passing yards, average yards, sacks, and interceptions.

Furthermore, Denver relied entirely on defense that season because their offense was mediocre. As a result, their impressive defensive performance was dubbed the No-Fly Zone. They finished the regular season as the first seed in the West with a record of 12-4. Similarly, they continued their quest by dominating every opponent and forcing multiple turnovers.

As a result, they faced the Carolina Panthers, the league’s top offensive team at the time. Furthermore, they finished the season with a near-perfect 15-1 record. Fans were ecstatic to see the league’s top offense and defense square off in Super Bowl 50.

In the first quarter, the Broncos shut down the Panthers and took an early lead. As a result, they never trailed throughout the game and won Super Bowl 50.

7. 1962 Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers were a huge name in the league in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a result, by 1962, they had already won seven NFL World Championships. As a result, we can say they were a solid team. However, when compared to previous seasons, the 62 Packers were something special.

62 Green Bay had a formidable defense that many feared at the time. They had Hall of Fame defenders like Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, and others.

Furthermore, the Packers were experts at shutting down opponents, allowing only 10.8 points per game. Similarly, during the regular season, they averaged nine interceptions. As a result, when Green Bay faced the New York Giants in the 1962 NFL Championship Game, the Packers won in the first half.

To elaborate, the Pacers shut down the Giants in the first half with their rock-solid defense. Only in the third quarter did the Giants score any points. As a result, Green Bay won its eighth NFL World Championship while also ranking as one of the best NFL defenses of all time.

6. 1969 Kansas City Chiefs

The 69 Kansas City Chiefs were simply built differently. As a result, the Chiefs led the league in passing yardage, rushing yardage, and total yardage. Not only that, but they became only the fourth defensive team in competitive football history to accomplish this feat.

Kansas finished second in the AFL Western division with an 11-3 record. Regardless of their stance, every team in the Western Division feared the Chiefs. During the regular season, Kansas City held five opponents to fewer than ten points. Furthermore, they only allowed two touchdowns per game on average.

Furthermore, the Oakland Raiders were responsible for two of the team’s three regular-season losses. As a result, when they faced the Raiders in the AFL Championship, they took it seriously.

The Chiefs limited the Raiders to just seven points in the first quarter. Except Oakland was completely shut down. Kansas showed the same intensity in Super Bowl IV when they completely exploited the Minnesota Vikings’ defense.

As a result, they won the Super Bowl 23-7, despite forcing three interceptions.

5. 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the fifth spot in the list of the top five NFL defenses of all time. They were the underdogs to have a successful regular season. The Buccaneers, on the other hand, made a name for themselves in the 2002 season.

Tampa finished the season with a record of 12-4, as one of their best defenses. Furthermore, the Buccaneers had one of the best postseasons in league history. As a result, they outscored all of their opponents in the playoffs by 69 points. Similarly, to qualify for Super Bowl XXXVII, they averaged 11 sacks and nine interceptions.

Furthermore, Tampa Bay’s path to their first Super Bowl victory was almost effortless. They outscored their opponents by 27, the seventh-highest margin in the league. Overall, the 2002 Buccaneers delivered a dominant defensive performance that will be remembered as one of the league’s best.

4. 2000 Baltimore Ravens

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were another historic team when it came to neutralizing opponents. On both sides of the floor, they were ecstatic. In comparison to their offense, they excelled in defensive strategies. With a record of 12-4, they held the majority of their regular-season opponents to fewer than ten points.

Furthermore, the Ravens’ defense was nearly impenetrable, allowing only 2.7 yards per carrying to their opponent. As a result, because they adapted to new formations, no team could have beaten them twice.

In addition, they allowed 11 touchdowns while intercepting 23 passes throughout 16 games. As a result, it was obvious that they were the favorites to win that season.

Baltimore only allowed 23 points in four playoff games. Similarly, their defensive dominance was so impressive that they recorded 12 takeaways while only allowing 16. In a nutshell, they never let their opponents take the lead, even for a quarter. As a result, the Ravens defense shut down every playoff team to win Super Bowl XXXV.

3. 1991 Philadelphia Eagles

The only great defensive team that did not make the playoffs was the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991. The Eagles defense was outstanding, allowing only 3.9 yards per play. Furthermore, the 3.9 yards were the highest in the league that season.

Similarly, they only allowed 3.0 yards per carrying, making them virtually unbeatable. However, due to the ACL injury, they lost starting quarterback Randall Cunningham in the first quarter. This caused inconsistency in their offense, resulting in them being one of the worst offensive teams that season.

Furthermore, despite excellent defensive play, the Eagles were unable to score points. However, Philadelphia’s defense is still regarded as one of the best in NFL history.

2. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

When you hear about the 76 Pittsburg Steelers, the word that comes to mind is “pure dominance.”Following a 1-4 start, the Steelers stepped up and went on a 9-0 run. In five of nine games, they completely shut down their opponents.

Similarly, in eight of nine games, they successfully held their opponents to less than six points. During the Steelers’ 9-0 run, only the Houston Oilers scored 16 points. Pittsburgh allowed only 9.9 points per game, the lowest in franchise history. However, due to injuries, they lost two of their best rushers, costing them the AFC Championship.

Despite the loss, many Steelers fans and analysts regard the team as one of the best in franchise history.

1. 1985 Chicago Bears

The top NFL defense spot is still up for grabs between the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 1985 Chicago Bears. However, Chicago overtakes Pittsburgh because the 85 Bears have achieved significantly more than the 76 Steelers.

With a near-perfect record of 15-1, the Bears defense was ranked first in the league. They were so dominant in the regular season that they only allowed 12.4 points per game. Similarly, they allowed 4,135 yards and 54 takeaways, making them the only team to do so until the 2013 Seattle Seahawks.

Similarly, their defense’s true charisma was on display in the divisional playoffs and NFC championship. The Bears completely shut out the Giants in the divisional playoffs and the Rams in the NFC title game. As a result, they are the only team in NFL history to have shut down a team in consecutive playoffs.

Furthermore, they won Super Bowl XX by a margin of 36 points, the largest point deficit until 1989. Without a doubt, the 1985 Chicago Bears are the greatest NFL defensive team of all time.

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