When the Seattle Seahawks took the the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night to face the Denver Broncos, the biggest storyline coming into the game was whether their defense stop Denver’s offense. It was a very valid question as the Broncos came into the game with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, having scored 658 points in their 18 games.
Seattle answered that question with a 43-8 victory to win the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history and the first major sports title win for the city since the Seattle SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA Championship — a very different result than what was anticipated.
Looking at history, however, the result was not as shocking as it seemed. The Seattle defense proved that it belongs to be alongside the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL: the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. These two defenses both won their respective Super Bowls with dominating defensive performances.
The blueprints for these clubs were very similar: a run-first attack with long sustained drives that kept opposing defenses on the field before their punishing, yet smart defense kept the other team in check. Amazingly, it was a very all-around effort from these defenses with their potent pass rush, backed up by a secondary that could turn the ball over. Each club finished their season with at least 30-plus interceptions with Chicago at 37, Baltimore at 33 and Seattle at 32.
Seattle was last of the three, giving up 14.26 points per game while Baltimore gave up 9.4 points per game and Chicago allowed 11.68 per game. Baltimore’s year was the lowest scoring season average of the three, with a league average point total of 20.54 per game. 2013 was the highest at 23.43 per game.
They were also behind in opponent completion percentage with a mark of 59.53 percent compared to the marks of 46.47 percent for Chicago and 53.99 percent for Baltimore. However, the number evens out when you factor in that the league is passing more than ever. The 2013 average completion percentage for quarterbacks (regular season and postseason combined) was 61.26 percent — compared to 2000, which was 58.03 percent and only 54.70 percent in 1985.
The passing yardage allowed was also a very interesting comparison with the Bears allowing 3,751 yards, the Seahawks at 3,792 yards and the Ravens at 3,847. Quarterbacks this season threw for a total of 134,694 yards compared to 94,749 yards in 1985, a 42 percent increase. Factoring that percentage increase into Chicago’s numbers would put them at 5,326 passing yards allowed.
Quarterback rating is another statistic used to evaluate how that position is playing . While the stat has a very complicated formula, it can be very effective to rank defenses as well. The Bears held their opponents to a QB rating of 50.2, 20 points better than the 1985 league average of 70.5. Baltimore had an opponent QB rating of 55.7, 20 points better than the 2000 league average of 75.8. Seattle kept their opponent QB rating to 65.4, nearly 21 points better than the 2013 league average of 86.1.
Factoring this in, it is very clear that the 2013 Seahawks defense belong in the talks as one of the greatest defensive units in league history. The scary part is that they could be even better next season.