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Old 01-27-2011, 10:39 AM    (permalink
Umoro
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Default Is it possible to win a Super Bowl without an above-average defense?

That's my question. After reviewing the past 20 years of Super Bowls, including this year's, I have to wonder, is it possible to ever win a Super Bowl without a defense that is in the top-10 in points allowed that year, or an average/below-average scoring defense that is elite in one or more other distinct categories?

All of the past 19 Super Bowl champions have had top 10 scoring defenses (in terms of points allowed) except for the Saints in 2009, the Giants in 2007, and the Colts in 2006. And each of those teams had defenses that were elite in some category, whether it was sacking QBs, forcing turnovers, or limiting passing TDs. And of course, in this year's Super Bowl the two teams participating are 1st and 2nd in scoring defense.

A list of the past twenty Super Bowls and the winner's ranking with regard to scoring defense:

2010: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1st or Green Bay Packers, 2nd
2009: New Orleans Saints, 20th
2008: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1st
2007: New York Giants, 17th
2006: Indianapolis Colts, 23rd
2005: Pittsburgh Steelers, 3rd
2004: New England Patriots, 2nd
2003: New England Patriots, 1st
2002: Tampa Bay Bucs, 1st
2001: New England Patriots, 6th
2000: Baltimore Ravens, 1st
1999: St. Louis Rams, 4th
1998: Denver Broncos, 8th
1997: Denver Broncos, 6th
1996: Green Bay Packers, 1st
1995: Dallas Cowboys, 3rd
1994: San Francisco 49ers, 6th
1993: Dallas Cowboys, 3rd
1992: Dallas Cowboys, 5th
1991: Washington Redskins, 2nd
1990: New York Giants, 1st

And if you look at the three teams that did not have top-10 scoring defenses (2007 Giants, 2009 Saints, and 2006 Colts), each one of those teams had some facet of their defense that was arguably elite and each of those defenses was top-10 in one or more distinct categories:

- The 2009 Saints were 5th overall in passing TDs allowed, 3rd overall in turnovers forced, and 3rd overall in defensive passer rating. They basically had an elite passing defense that was excellent at forcing turnovers and pressuring QBs into making mistakes.

- The 2007 Giants had an elite defensive line, and because of that elite defensive line, were 1st in the NFL that year with a whopping 53 sacks. Obviously, this defensive line was instrumental to their success in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

- The 2006 Colts were 6th in passing TDs allowed and 2nd in passing yards allowed. The only reason they were in the bottom 10 in scoring defense was because they were a historically bad rushing defense which allowed 5.3 ypc to RBs and 20 rushing TDs that year. However, again, they were an arguably elite passing defense (in terms of TDs and yards allowed), which tends to be more important in the modern NFL than rushing defense.

So is this firm evidence that defense is more important in the NFL than offense? Without an above-average defense, more specifically a passing defense, you simply can't win the Super Bowl. Even all of the teams that were known for their great offenses such as the 1999 Rams, and the 1996 Packers, the 2006 Colts, and the 2009 Saints all were complemented by either elite scoring defenses or average scoring defenses with elite passing defense. If you have an elite offense, you simply can't win a Super Bowl unless you also have an above-average defense. If you have an elite defense, however, you can win with a below-average offense (2000 Ravens, 2002 Bucs, 2008 Steelers, 2007 Giants).
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:51 AM    (permalink
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I think if you dig enough you could find roughly twenty or so teams which would be above average in at least one statistical category. Some teams are great aginst the run but poor against the pass(Minnesota), some poor against the run but great against the pass(Indianapolis), some are terrible on 3rd down but have a good scoring defense(New England) etc. I think it is a lot easier to win a Superbowl with a very good defense as opposed to offense. There is enough recent history to show this. The Saints and Colts of this decade were more offensively minded but both had opportunistic defenses and in fact both had a INT returned for a TD in their Superbowl wins
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:07 AM    (permalink
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I say no. You have to have atleast an above average defense to compete in the playoffs.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:42 PM    (permalink
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You could just as easily ask if you can win a Super Bowl without an above average offense.

2010: Pittsburgh- 14th Green Bay- 9th
2009: New Orleans- 1st
2008: Pittsburgh- 22nd
2007: New York Giants- 16th
2006: Indianapolis- 3rd
2005: Pittsburgh- 15th
2004: New England- 7th
2003: New England- 17th
2002: Tampa Bay- 24th
2001: New Englan- 19th
2000: Baltimore- 16th
1999: St. Louis- 1st
1998: Denver- 3rd
1997: Denver- 1st
1996: Green Bay- 5th
1995: Dallas- 5th
1994: San Francisco- 2nd
1993: Dallas- 4th
1992: Dallas- 4th
1991: Washington- 4th
1990: New York Giants-15th

So, since 1990, the average offensive rank was 9th and the average defensive rank was 6. Looks like both are important. To look at it a little more closely like you did;

The 2007 New York Giants were 4th in rushung offense. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were 5th in rushing offense and 9th in points. The 2003 New England Patriots were 9th in passing and had Tom Brady. 2001 New England Patriots were 6th in points. The Baltimore Ravens in 2000 had one of the best defenses of all time. And their offense wasn't as bad as some think. They were 5th in rushing. And the Giants in 1990 were a very good rushing team and had the fewest turnovers in the league.
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Old 01-27-2011, 01:02 PM    (permalink
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Some of those regular season are misleading. The 2007 Giants started off slow, but the unit played at a truly elite level in the playoffs. The 2006 Colts also put on dominating performances in three of their four playoff games that year. So I would definitely say that you need a good defense to win the Super Bowl. This is why the Patriots fooled everyone this year. Great offense, but a very young defense that was average at best.
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Old 01-27-2011, 01:07 PM    (permalink
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Is it possible to win a Super Bowl without an above-average defense?

The answer is hell no it is 100% impossible to win a superbowl without a "above-average defense". I said it thus it is true.
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Old 01-27-2011, 01:54 PM    (permalink
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The bottom line is it takes a great TEAM to win a Super Bowl ultimately. That said, if there's any phase that at least apparently can be lacking on a championship team, it seems to be special teams.
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Old 01-27-2011, 03:01 PM    (permalink
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2006 Colts' pass D wasn't elite. Low passing yards and TDs were a result of opponents not needing to pass.

However, Bob Sanders only played 4 games during the regular season, came back right in time for the playoffs and made a HUGE difference.

Booger McFarland also had one heck of a "last hurrah." He too saved his best for the playoffs.
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Old 01-27-2011, 04:06 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by MaxV View Post
2006 Colts' pass D wasn't elite. Low passing yards and TDs were a result of opponents not needing to pass.

However, Bob Sanders only played 4 games during the regular season, came back right in time for the playoffs and made a HUGE difference.

Booger McFarland also had one heck of a "last hurrah." He too saved his best for the playoffs.
And you played Rex Grossman in the Superbowl. One of, if not thee, weakest QB to play in a Superbowl. 11 random guys from this board having a chance of forcing him into enough mistakes to lose the game....

/rant
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Old 01-27-2011, 04:08 PM    (permalink
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Yes, because a season's worth of stats doesn't play the biggest game of the season for you. It's only an indication of the unit's success and sometimes it doesn't do the unit justice.
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Old 01-27-2011, 05:55 PM    (permalink
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Their SB win beat the Titans by 1 yd. in that game.
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Old 01-28-2011, 11:56 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by jrdrylie View Post
You could just as easily ask if you can win a Super Bowl without an above average offense.

2010: Pittsburgh- 14th Green Bay- 9th
2009: New Orleans- 1st
2008: Pittsburgh- 22nd
2007: New York Giants- 16th
2006: Indianapolis- 3rd
2005: Pittsburgh- 15th
2004: New England- 7th
2003: New England- 17th
2002: Tampa Bay- 24th
2001: New Englan- 19th
2000: Baltimore- 16th
1999: St. Louis- 1st
1998: Denver- 3rd
1997: Denver- 1st
1996: Green Bay- 5th
1995: Dallas- 5th
1994: San Francisco- 2nd
1993: Dallas- 4th
1992: Dallas- 4th
1991: Washington- 4th
1990: New York Giants-15th

So, since 1990, the average offensive rank was 9th and the average defensive rank was 6. Looks like both are important. To look at it a little more closely like you did;

The 2007 New York Giants were 4th in rushung offense. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were 5th in rushing offense and 9th in points. The 2003 New England Patriots were 9th in passing and had Tom Brady. 2001 New England Patriots were 6th in points. The Baltimore Ravens in 2000 had one of the best defenses of all time. And their offense wasn't as bad as some think. They were 5th in rushing. And the Giants in 1990 were a very good rushing team and had the fewest turnovers in the league.
Clearly this shows that the most balanced team which has an offense AND a defense in the top 10 more likely than not will be the main contender for the Super Bowl championship.

But the disparity in top defenses in the Super Bowl vs. the number of top offenses in the Super Bowl, I believe, clearly shows that defense is simply more important than offense when it comes to winning championships. Teams have won with sub-par or mediocre offenses but have *never* won with a mediocre defense.

So if a team had to choose which area to focus on (defense or offense) in the draft and in free agency, it would probably be wise to build defense first and invest more resources in that area.
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