For this article, only defenses since 1985 are being examined. Key: EPA= Expected Points Added, DVOA= Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.
- 2013 Seattle Seahawks- Legion of Boom
The Legion of Boom is in fact the best defense of all-time as no defense played with as many rules to follow while achieving the scary as fuck performance levels this unit did. Just ask the 2013 Broncos, who had the number one statistical offense ever, but were dismantled by this LOB unit as the Seahawks won 43-8 in Super Bowl 50.
The LOB allowed a very low 1.17 points per drive to opposing offenses when the league average points per drive was 1.81. The Seahawks also had the 10th toughest schedule in 2013 while allowing -0.149 EPA/play to their opponents and had a -25.1% DVOA. This unit was led by cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and edge rusher Michael Bennett.
2. 2015 Denver Broncos
This unit also had to play with more rules to follow than defenses of the past which gives them an extra boost in these rankings while also seeing the 12th toughest schedule. Denver’s defense in 2013 carried them to multiple wins as the offense was complete shit. This combination was even able to win a Super Bowl against a red-hot Carolina Panthers team that tore its opponents up with their offense mostly but also had a good defense.
The Broncos in 2013 gave up 1.38 points per drive when the league average was 1.84 and had a DVOA of -25.2%. In terms of EPA/play allowed they gave up -0.138. Headlining this defense was Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and TJ Ward.
3. 1985 Chicago Bears- Monsters of the Midway
DAAAAAA!!!!! Bears!!!! There’s no way this unit isn’t top three all-time and it’s honestly a shame we don’t have as many advanced stats to look at to show how good they were. The only one is DVOA where they put up an absurd -33.3% score. In 1985 the Bears gave up only 12.4 points per game which was better than both units above (14.4; 18.5) while facing the 15th most difficult schedule. This defense led the team to a 15-1 record and two shutout victories in the playoffs over the Giants and Rams before they beat the absolute shit out of the New England Patriots 46-10 to win the Super Bowl. Making this defense great was Mike Singletary, Dave Duerson, Leslie Frazier, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, and William “The Refrigerator” Perry while coordinated by the great Buddy Ryan.
4. 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yes, the ’02 Bucs are the best defense of the early 2000s. This unit gave up 0.90 points per drive when the league average was 1.71 and only allowed 12.3 points per game which is slightly better than the ’85 Bears. Also, like that Bears unit, this Bucs defense had a ridiculous DVOA of -31.2%. The Bucs EPA/play allowed was -0.236.
The Bucs went 12-4 in 2002 and beat the 49ers and Eagles to get to the Super Bowl where they’d beat the Raiders 48-21. Led by Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber, how could they not perform as well as they did?
5. 2000 Baltimore Ravens
It was tough to put these guys fifth but it was the right call. They had the easiest schedule as it ranked 30th in strength of schedule and had the lowest scoring season faced by any of these units as the average points per drive was only 1.62 and points per game only 20.7. They did outdo the Bucs in points per drive at 0.79 and in EPA/play at -0.255 but were worse than all defenses on this list in DVOA at -23.6% and are the only not to have been first in DVOA that respective season. The Ravens went 12-4 and defeated the Broncos, Titans, and Raiders to get to the Super Bowl where they’d crush the Giants 34-7. Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, and Rob Burnett.