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  1. #1
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    '15 Broncos Defense and '85 Bears Defense: How do they compare?

    We know it is difficult to compare teams from different eras especially considering rule changes and how the game evolves. After looking at the Broncos 2015 highlights over and over, I got to thinking about how historic the defense was. After SB50 there was some coverage on Denver's defense however comparisons with the Bears were dismissed quickly (at least that's my perception).

    I pulled statistics to try to gain some perspective on each team, acknowledging statistics only paint part of the picture. I remember the '85 Bears fairly well and watched them as much as possible to see Walter Payton.

    One statistic that stood out to me was not from the Bears defense, rather their offense scored 44 touchdowns vs. the Broncos 32 touchdowns. The Bears offense also had the #1 run game. How much did those extra 12 touchdowns help the Bears defense? Interestingly they had 12 more sacks.

    The Broncos defense faced teams with a combined 106 wins and 6 playoff appearances. The Bears defense faced teams with a combined 97 wins and 5 playoff appearances.

    Gil Brandt ranks the Broncos defense #3 after the '85 Bears #1 and '00 Ravens
    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap300...es-of-all-time

    Reading this article it was amazing to see the similarities between the Ravens and Broncos lack of offensive production that the defenses had to overcome. The Broncos offense passed for 19 TDs/23 INTs and the Ravens passed for 20 TDs/19 INTs.

    Of the three teams the Broncos defense had the most to overcome with respect to help from the offensive side of the ball.

    Looking forward to everyone's opinion on how these historic defenses compare with one another - especially if you have a lot of memories watching the '85 Bears.

    1985 Bears Opponents:
    (P=Playoff Team)
    Tampa Bay 2-14
    New England 11-5 (P)
    Minnesota 7-9
    Washington 10-6
    San Francisco 10-6 (P)
    Green Bay 8-8
    Detroit 7-9
    Dallas 10-6 (P)
    Atlanta 4-12
    Miami 12-4 (P)
    Indy 5-11
    NY Jets 11-5 (P)
    Opponents: 97 wins and 5 playoff teams
    Bears Defense: 64 sacks, 16 INT and 27 fumbles recovered
    Bears Offense: 5837 yards, 1085 plays, 44 TD, 16 INT and 31 turnovers lost

    2015 Broncos Opponents:
    Baltimore 5-11
    Kansas City 11-5 (P)
    Detroit 7-9
    Minnesota 11-5 (P)
    Oakland 7-9
    Cleveland 3-13
    Green Bay 10-6 (P)
    Indy 8-8
    Chicago 6-10
    New England 12-4 (P)
    San Diego 4-12
    Pittsburgh 10-6 (P)
    Cincinnati 12-4 (P)
    Opponents: 106 wins and 6 playoff teams
    Broncos Defense:
    52 sacks, 14 INT and 21 fumbles recovered
    Broncos Offense: 5688 yards, 1056 plays, 32 TD, 23 INT and 31 turnovers lost
    Last edited by Fantaztic7; 07-24-2016 at 05:51 PM. Reason: Add

  2. #2
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    I don't think you can compare because of the two different eras and the way offenses attack teams now compared to then. Back in 1985 every team had fullbacks, multiple tight ends, and it was about pounding the rock and mauling opponents. The 1985 Bears defense lost when they faced an offense that spread them out, made them cover the entire field, and passed the entire game. They weren't built for that.

    This Broncos defense is obviously built to handle spread offenses, and shut down the pass. But they also don't face teams that are determined to run the majority of the time and are looking to beat you up inside. The two closest offenses to that (in my opinion) that they played were Carolina and Cincy, obviously both were wins. However could this defense hold up to teams trying to pound the ball on them 40 times a week over and over?

    Because of the difference in eras, we don't know. The better comparison would be Denver 15 v Seattle 13-14. And for the 85 Bears, I think a better comparison is the 2000 Ravens and Titans (who were actually better statistically than the Ravens, but they didn't win the Super Bowl.) or going back to the 70's Steelers.

    Don't get me wrong all are historic defenses, I just don't think you can truly choose which one is better because they're built so differently.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butler By'Note View Post
    I don't think you can compare because of the two different eras and the way offenses attack teams now compared to then. Back in 1985 every team had fullbacks, multiple tight ends, and it was about pounding the rock and mauling opponents. The 1985 Bears defense lost when they faced an offense that spread them out, made them cover the entire field, and passed the entire game. They weren't built for that.

    This Broncos defense is obviously built to handle spread offenses, and shut down the pass. But they also don't face teams that are determined to run the majority of the time and are looking to beat you up inside. The two closest offenses to that (in my opinion) that they played were Carolina and Cincy, obviously both were wins. However could this defense hold up to teams trying to pound the ball on them 40 times a week over and over?

    Because of the difference in eras, we don't know. The better comparison would be Denver 15 v Seattle 13-14. And for the 85 Bears, I think a better comparison is the 2000 Ravens and Titans (who were actually better statistically than the Ravens, but they didn't win the Super Bowl.) or going back to the 70's Steelers.

    Don't get me wrong all are historic defenses, I just don't think you can truly choose which one is better because they're built so differently.
    Thanks for great perspective.

    Three things stood out about the Bears:

    1. Shut out teams back to back in the regular season, Cowboys (44-0) and Falcons (36-0).

    2. Shut out teams back to back in the playoffs, Giants (21-0) and Rams (24-0).

    3. Beat the Patriots by 36 points in Super Bowl XX - held New England to 7 rushing yards.

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    Funny after arguing the exact opposite earlier today.... Seeing these numbers payed out this way....maybe our d isn't great just for our era but all time...
    http://s7.postimg.org/hjr8fcmaz/EM2.jpg

    Adopted Bronco: Andy Janovich

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    Sorry I just saw that you said Gil Brandt ranks the 00 Ravens as his second best of all-time, again they weren't even the best defense that year, Tennessee had better numbers than them in almost every metric. They played in the playoffs and the Titans held the Ravens to just 134 total offensive yards (The Titans put up 317 yards). But Baltimore scored on a blocked FG returned for a touchdown and an interception return for a TD. If Tennessee had won that game, and won the Super Bowl, would we be considering them one of the best of all-time?

    Comparing the two over that season:
    Avg Yards per game: Ten 238.3, Bal 247.9
    Pass D: Ten 151.4, Bal 187.3 (Baltimore was 8th)
    Sacks: Ten 55, Bal 33
    Int: Ten 17, Bal 23
    Opposing QB rate: Ten 62.0, Bal 62.5
    Rush D: Ten 86.9, Bal 60.6 (Ten was 3rd, Bal was 1st by 12 yards per game)
    3rd down %: Ten 31%, Bal 34%
    Points per game: Ten 11.9, Bal 10.3

    When you look at the numbers, both teams were dominant on D, but the Ravens really weren't that much better than the Titans. They did get turnovers at a higher rate though. But really the only reason Baltimore is looked at as the historic D is because they won the SB that year, if the Titans win the SB, they have just as much of a case to being one of the greatest as the Ravens do. Or if neither wins, the Titans could be considered just as historic, if not more so.

    Bringing this around back to being about the Broncos (although I did hijack it somewhat) is that the biggest argument against them being a historic D (in my opinion) is the average points per game they gave up, 18.5 which was 4th in the league. If you take away the pick 6's that Manning threw, I think they're still at about 17 points per game against.

    They were still very dominant on D, and I think they're easily top 2 or 3, but the points per game is where I'm bothered by it all.
    Last edited by Butler By'Note; 07-24-2016 at 08:01 PM.

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    It's a hypothetical argument...but, still a fun one to partake of.

    Our offense finished 29th in league giveaways, 29th in opponents’ average starting field position, and ranked in the bottom 10 in time of possession. This handicaps a defense, yet, still we produced a yards per play (Yd/P) of 4.4, even in an offensively slanted era. We had a difficult route to the Super Bowl having to beat two HOF QB's and the league MVP, all with an inept sputtering offense.

    To me, the best comparison is the `91 Eagles who had the offensive equivalent of moldy bread, yet boasted one of the very best yards per play all-time defensively.

    In my humble opinion, factoring in different eras, you can make the ARGUMENT that the 2015 Broncos were the greatest defense of all time. But, I would just say comfortably, that it was a top three defense historically.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butler By'Note View Post
    Sorry I just saw that you said Gil Brandt ranks the 00 Ravens as his second best of all-time, again they weren't even the best defense that year, Tennessee had better numbers than them in almost every metric. They played in the playoffs and the Titans held the Ravens to just 134 total offensive yards (The Titans put up 317 yards). But Baltimore scored on a blocked FG returned for a touchdown and an interception return for a TD. If Tennessee had won that game, and won the Super Bowl, would we be considering them one of the best of all-time?

    Comparing the two over that season:
    Avg Yards per game: Ten 238.3, Bal 247.9
    Pass D: Ten 151.4, Bal 187.3 (Baltimore was 8th)
    Sacks: Ten 55, Bal 33
    Int: Ten 17, Bal 23
    Opposing QB rate: Ten 62.0, Bal 62.5
    Rush D: Ten 86.9, Bal 60.6 (Ten was 3rd, Bal was 1st by 12 yards per game)
    3rd down %: Ten 31%, Bal 34%
    Points per game: Ten 11.9, Bal 10.3

    When you look at the numbers, both teams were dominant on D, but the Ravens really weren't that much better than the Titans. They did get turnovers at a higher rate though. But really the only reason Baltimore is looked at as the historic D is because they won the SB that year, if the Titans win the SB, they have just as much of a case to being one of the greatest as the Ravens do. Or if neither wins, the Titans could be considered just as historic, if not more so.

    Bringing this around back to being about the Broncos (although I did hijack it somewhat) is that the biggest argument against them being a historic D (in my opinion) is the average points per game they gave up, 18.5 which was 4th in the league. If you take away the pick 6's that Manning threw, I think they're still at about 17 points per game against.

    They were still very dominant on D, and I think they're easily top 2 or 3, but the points per game is where I'm bothered by it all.
    The comparative stats for the Ravens and Titans defense are amazing. Like you said the Superbowl for the Ravens helps and I would add the play and notoriety of Ray Lewis helps.

    Maybe there is a likeness with the comparison of the Ravens-Titans defense and the Broncos-Seahawks in 2015. Denver allowed 283.1 yards/gm and 18.5 points/gm while Seattle allowed 291.8 yards/gm and 17.3 points/game.

    I see where you are coming from being bothered by the points per game - I felt like that as well. As I look at the negative impact of Denver's offense that's when it seems like the defense is that much better. Take Seattle's offense at 378.6 yards/gm and 26.4 points/gm vs Denver at 355.5 yards/gm and 22.2 points/gm. Not counting for offensive turnovers, Seattle's defense had the benefit of Top 5 offensive production.

    Anyway the point I'm trying to make here was that if Seattle would have won the Superbowl their defense would probably been called historic and Denver's may have been left out of the conversation.
    Last edited by Fantaztic7; 07-24-2016 at 08:34 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lumiere View Post
    It's a hypothetical argument...but, still a fun one to partake of.

    Our offense finished 29th in league giveaways, 29th in opponents’ average starting field position, and ranked in the bottom 10 in time of possession. This handicaps a defense, yet, still we produced a yards per play (Yd/P) of 4.4, even in an offensively slanted era. We had a difficult route to the Super Bowl having to beat two HOF QB's and the league MVP, all with an inept sputtering offense.

    To me, the best comparison is the `91 Eagles who had the offensive equivalent of moldy bread, yet boasted one of the very best yards per play all-time defensively.

    In my humble opinion, factoring in different eras, you can make the ARGUMENT that the 2015 Broncos were the greatest defense of all time. But, I would just say comfortably, that it was a top three defense historically.
    Nice points!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by EddieMac View Post
    Funny after arguing the exact opposite earlier today.... Seeing these numbers payed out this way....maybe our d isn't great just for our era but all time...
    The numbers can 'show different outcomes depending on how we set them up and interpret them. Then again it's easier to just go with the Broncos

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by osfantaztic View Post
    The comparative stats for the Ravens and Titans defense are amazing. Like you said the Superbowl for the Ravens helps and I would add the play and notoriety of Ray Lewis helps.

    Maybe there is a likeness with the comparison of the Ravens-Titans defense and the Broncos-Seahawks in 2015. Denver allowed 283.1 yards/gm and 18.5 points/gm while Seattle allowed 291.8 yards/gm and 17.3 points/game.

    I see where you are coming from being bothered by the points per game - I felt like that as well. As I look at the negative impact of Denver's offense that's when it seems like the defense is that much better. Take Seattle's offense at 378.6 yards/gm and 26.4 points/gm vs Denver at 355.5 yards/gm and 22.2 points/gm. Not counting for offensive turnovers, Seattle's defense had the benefit of Top 5 offensive production.

    Anyway the point I'm trying to make here was that if Seattle would have won the Superbowl their defense would probably been called historic and Denver's may have been left out of the conversation.
    Don't get me wrong, I'm putting things out there as a devil's advocate, but I DO believe the Broncos D was historic, not necessarily in the regular season, where they were just very very good (in comparisons of history) but once you factor in their run in the playoffs that's what pushes them up there, in my opinion.

    Just like the Ravens are considered great because of their defense pushing them over the top to the Super Bowl, the Broncos of 2015 are considered great because of that as well.

    I won't consider the 85 Bears or anything before that, because I didn't start watching football until 1987 and didn't start seriously watching it until the mid 90's, I will only consider what I've seen.

    Each of the 3 best that I've seen went about it a different way.

    The 2000 Ravens had an attitude about them where they were just going to physically beat up on you. They had two giant defensive tackles that were going to take away the run (which they did an amazing job of) and they wanted you to pass the ball. They would give up a few receptions (as evidenced by being 8th against the pass) because they knew that you couldn't do that enough times to score a touchdown. You were either going to end up punting or they were going to create a turnover.

    The 2013 Seahawks had a bit of the same attitude but they went about it a different way. Their defensive line was a bunch of no name guys (but extremely good) where they killed you was with their safeties, who were, and still are, the best tandem in the league. They play zone defense a lot (usually cover 3) and will give up the short passes (5 yards and under) because they're fast enough to get there before you gained more, and they knew you couldn't put together enough to score touchdowns and beat them.

    The 2015 Denver Broncos didn't have the same attitude that the other 2 had, however they were built with maximum aggression, which the other 2 didn't have. They had a devastating pass rush, but it didn't stop them from also blitzing a lot. And they could get away with it because their 3 corners are as good as any in the league. In the playoffs they changed their scheme, they started rolling coverages and confusing the opposition. They were good enough to get there with 4, and sometimes they would and they'd drop 7 in zone. Other times they'd bring 5 or 6 and they would play aggressive cover 1 and cover 0.

    Those are my top 3 (in any order) just missing out is the 2002 Bucs. I have no idea why, but I'm biased against Tampa 2 defenses. Although they were obviously incredible at running that scheme.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butler By'Note View Post
    Sorry I just saw that you said Gil Brandt ranks the 00 Ravens as his second best of all-time, again they weren't even the best defense that year, Tennessee had better numbers than them in almost every metric. They played in the playoffs and the Titans held the Ravens to just 134 total offensive yards (The Titans put up 317 yards). But Baltimore scored on a blocked FG returned for a touchdown and an interception return for a TD. If Tennessee had won that game, and won the Super Bowl, would we be considering them one of the best of all-time?

    Comparing the two over that season:
    Avg Yards per game: Ten 238.3, Bal 247.9
    Pass D: Ten 151.4, Bal 187.3 (Baltimore was 8th)
    Sacks: Ten 55, Bal 33
    Int: Ten 17, Bal 23
    Opposing QB rate: Ten 62.0, Bal 62.5
    Rush D: Ten 86.9, Bal 60.6 (Ten was 3rd, Bal was 1st by 12 yards per game)
    3rd down %: Ten 31%, Bal 34%
    Points per game: Ten 11.9, Bal 10.3

    When you look at the numbers, both teams were dominant on D, but the Ravens really weren't that much better than the Titans. They did get turnovers at a higher rate though. But really the only reason Baltimore is looked at as the historic D is because they won the SB that year, if the Titans win the SB, they have just as much of a case to being one of the greatest as the Ravens do. Or if neither wins, the Titans could be considered just as historic, if not more so.

    Bringing this around back to being about the Broncos (although I did hijack it somewhat) is that the biggest argument against them being a historic D (in my opinion) is the average points per game they gave up, 18.5 which was 4th in the league. If you take away the pick 6's that Manning threw, I think they're still at about 17 points per game against.

    They were still very dominant on D, and I think they're easily top 2 or 3, but the points per game is where I'm bothered by it all.
    The points were kind of inflated though, not only because of turnovers returned for TDs but turnovers putting the offense in scoring position. Not to mention there was a stretch where we were missing our top 3 safeties which would cripple most defenses as well as Chris Harris playing with 1 arm. Ware also played with a bad back much of the season and Wolfe missed the first 4 games. Not sure about the 85 Bears or the 00 Ravens and their injuries though.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by osfantaztic View Post
    Nice points!
    Thanks, Os!

    For me, the most important collective metric for rating the overall strength of a defense is simply yards per play (and definitely not points allowed which could be heavily skewered by field position). By comparison, the 2013 Seahawks were (I believe) top 10 in opponent starting field position and time of possession...which impacted points allowed proportionally. Either way, there's no objective right answer besides the 2015 Broncos defense was historically good, and among the greatest of all time.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lumiere View Post
    Thanks, Os!

    For me, the most important collective metric for rating the overall strength of a defense is simply yards per play (and definitely not points allowed which could be heavily skewered by field position). By comparison, the 2013 Seahawks were (I believe) top 10 in opponent starting field position and time of possession...which impacted points allowed proportionally. Either way, there's no objective right answer besides the 2015 Broncos defense was historically good, and among the greatest of all time.
    Great point! That is a very good metric to measure defenses, for some reason I never even looked at that.

    2015 Broncos were first in the league at 4.4 YPP, Carolina and Seattle were tied for second at 4.9. That's a big difference!
    2000 Titans 4.2 YPP, Ravens 4.3 YPP
    1985 Bears were tied for 2nd with both LA teams at 4.4 YPP (Giants were first at 4.2 that year)
    2002 Bucs were at 4.2
    The 74 Steelers were the lowest I've found at 3.6, and were around 4.2 for their other SB championship seasons in the 70's.

    That's a good metric (thanks for mentioning it) and the Broncos certainly are in good company.

  14. #14
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    Another reason to add to the yards per play and not points is take into account the fields themselves. If you are a coach and played these defenses and you were on the 30 would you kick a fg? 47ish yards in Chicago with that wind or the same in the thin air of mile high.

    So many factors can come into play that skew stats. Even number of games can play into it. You play 14 versus 16 you are looking that's another 120 plays roughly that are added onto the total.

    Plus if you are comparing yards per play against different Eras you should probably see what the average yards per play was for the league and see how different it was.

    What's more impressive 4.4 when the average is 5.5 or 4.2 with an average of 4.8?

    Obviously those aren't the actual stats as I'm at work and don't have time to get the actual numbers for those years but those are just some of the factors to look at.

    One last thing as it just popped into my head. A good metric might be the differential between yards per play and the averageof the team you faced. Aka you held them to 4.4 and they normally get 4.9. Then take the average of all those. This would help solving of you faced inept offenses or the likes. But it is a lot of work and not something I plan on diving into anytime soon lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butler By'Note View Post
    Great point! That is a very good metric to measure defenses, for some reason I never even looked at that.

    2015 Broncos were first in the league at 4.4 YPP, Carolina and Seattle were tied for second at 4.9. That's a big difference!
    2000 Titans 4.2 YPP, Ravens 4.3 YPP
    1985 Bears were tied for 2nd with both LA teams at 4.4 YPP (Giants were first at 4.2 that year)
    2002 Bucs were at 4.2
    The 74 Steelers were the lowest I've found at 3.6, and were around 4.2 for their other SB championship seasons in the 70's.

    That's a good metric (thanks for mentioning it) and the Broncos certainly are in good company.
    It's one of those numbers that isn't really sexy, but is an accurate measurement by ignoring field position and scores. Total yards and total points are more glamorous, but, those values are influenced by field position and the total number of drives (which is often not the fault of a defense).

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