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Defense Wins Championships?

September 13, 2008 by sportsroids 

By Alex V

Defense Wins Championships or Great Quarterbacking?

One of the longest standing arguments in today’s NFL has been the viewpoint that it takes a strong defense to become a champion. Over the past few years teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to remain in at least competitive contention, if not championship contention, due to their outstandingly consistent play on defense. However, in this writer’s eyes, the most important factor in helping a team turn the corner from respectability to prominence has been the position of quarterback.

Over the past ten years alone, almost every Super Bowl champion has been led by a pro-bowl caliber, if not perennial pro-bowl quarterback. In most cases a good defense played a key role in each winner’s success, but on most of those teams, there was strong quarterback play involved as well.

During the 1998 season the Denver Broncos won the title with John Elway, and everyone knows how great he was. In 1999, the St. Louis Rams became league champions behind the light-out play of MVP quarterback Kurt Warner. Everybody will remember the Greatest Show on Turf as one of those teams that had such a great offense, they could overcome sub par-to-average defense to win games. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens would make a name in history as one of those teams that could overcome average, but not great, offensive play with a tenacious defense that created turnovers and stymied opponents week in and week out with its defense.

Let’s use a paragraph too look a little deeper at those 2000 Ravens. That team’s defense was so good that it held three regular season opponents to seven points, their Super Bowl opponent to seven points (the New York Giants), one regular season opponent to three points, and three post-season opponents to three points (the Wild Card Denver Broncos and the AFC Championship host Oakland Raiders), and four regular season opponents to zero points. How often does a defense that strong come along? Not too often I would say. I gahter that that the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears were two teams in NFL history that literally succeeded almost an entire season based solely on excellent defense.

In 2001, Tom Brady came along and got his first Super Bowl title when he drove his team downfield to kick a game-winning field goal. In 2002, another team with a great defense raised the Lombardi Trophy and this time it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Brad Johnson was Tampa’s quarterback that year and in 13 regular season games, finished the season with 22 touchdown passes against six interceptions, a 62.3% completion percentage, and a 92.9 Quarterback rating (the best of his career). The next two years would conclude with Tom Brady’s Patriots coming out on top, where-in 2003 Tom Brady led yet another drive downfield for a game-winning field goal, and in 2004 it was Brady and the Patriots who got the trophy.

In 2005 the surprise Pittsburgh Steelers came out on top. Even though it was the defense that showed up in the Super Bowl and not Ben Roethlisberger, it was Big Ben’s dazzling play in Cincinnati in the Wild Card round (14-19 passing for 74%, 208 yards, and 3 TDs), in Indianapolis in the Divisional Round (14-24 passing, 197 yards, and 2 TDs with one INT), and in Denver in the AFC Championship Game (21-29 passing, 275 yards, 2 passing TDs, and one rushing TD) that got them there. In this case it was strong defense and strong quarterback play that produced a champion.

In 2006 Peyton Manning and the strong play of the Colts’ defense won the title. Finally, last year, even though the Giants had a great pass-rushing defense while leading the league in sacks, nobody would have picked New York to come out on top if it hadn’t been for Eli Manning’s highly unexpected pro-bowl level of play throughout the post-season, including the Super Bowl.

I want everybody to take a long step back when they think that defense wins championships, because in all reality it takes a solid defense coupled by strong quarterback play to win a Super Bowl, with a few exceptions every now and then on both sides of the ball. So remember, a great defense will bring you respectability, but it takes a great quarterback to take a team to prominence!

Super Bowl Winner and Quarterback

1997 John Elway

1996 Brett Favre

1995 Troy Aikman

1994 Steve Young

1993 Troy Aikman

1992 Troy Aikman

1991 Mark Rypien

1990 Jeff Hostetler

1989 Joe Montana

1988 Joe Montana

1987 Doug Williams

1986 Phil Simms

1985 Jim McMahon

1984 Joe Montana

1983 Jim Plunkett

1982 Joe Theismann

1981 Joe Montana

1980 Jim Plunkett

1979 Terry Bradshaw

1978 Terry Bradshaw

1977 Roger Staubach

1976 Ken Stabler

1975 Terry Bradshaw

1974 Terry Bradshaw

1973 Bob Griese

1972 Bob Griese

1971 Roger Staubach

1970 Johnny Unitas

1969 Len Dawson

1968 Joe Namath

1967 Bart Starr

1966 Bart Starr

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