10. Los Angeles Rams (1973)
The 1973 Rams boasted a stellar D, but they couldn’t quite get out of the starting gate in the playoffs, losing in the Divisional round. Nonetheless, few defenses had been as hard-hitting up until that point in NFL history.
9. Minnesota Vikings (1969)
The infamous “Purple People Eater” Minnesota D was daunting throughout much of the 1960’s, but never better than in 1969. Unfortunately for Vikings fans everywhere, they came up short in the Super Bowl. They still stand as one of the best teams to never win it all.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (1969)
As good as the “Purple People Eaters” were in 1969, they weren’t even the best D on the planet. That title belonged to the powerful Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. The Chiefs were absolutely dominant, romping to a Super Bowl win over those aforementioned Vikings.
7. Miami Dolphins (1972)
The NFL’s last undefeated team, the 1972 Dolphins boasted one of the most underrated defenses in the league’s history. Why are they so overlooked? Well, there weren’t really any legendary names, but the Dolphins were much more than the sum of their parts. Their success included shutting out the Baltimore Colts twice that year, including in the Super Bowl.
6. Seattle Seahawks (2013)
If five years ago, I’d have said that the Seattle Seahawks would win the Super Bowl, you’d think I was off my rocker. Well, you’d likely be justified. Seattle’s rise to immortality is about as unlikely as any in recent memory. While Russell Wilson and the offense were a triumph, the Seahawks true essence was in their fast, physical D. This was no better exemplified than in their improbable domination of the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002)
Throughout much of the 1990’s, the NFL had become an offense-oriented league. That started to change a bit at the start of the new millennium, as the Ravens and Pats snagged the Lombardi trophy on the backs of elite defenses. In 2002, it looked like that would swing back to the O though, as the Raiders were odds on favorites to win the whole shebang. Nobody told Jon Gruden and the Bucs, who dominated in the Super Bowl with the “Tampa 2′ scheme.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (1975)
The much-heralded “Steel Curtain” were no better than in the 1975-76 NFL season. The team only lost two games the entire season, with both defense and offense firing on all cylinders. Behind future Hall of Famers like “Mean” Joe Greene and Jack Lambert, the Steelers were a horror show for offenses across the league. Like most on this list, they also won the Super Bowl.
3. Baltimore Ravens (2000)
The Baltimore Ravens were our first glance at the modern NFL defense. Extremely fast and physical, the Ravens were as feared as any defense in recent memory. With a combination of gazelle-like defensive linemen, athletic LBs who could cover as well as tackle, and ball-hawking DBs, they were as revolutionary as they were dominant. Their Super Bowl win was about as lopsided as any in recent memory.
2. New York Giants (1986)
Bill Parcells assembled one of the most feared and aggressive defenses in 1986, resulting in legendary results. Behind freak linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the G-Men menaced teams around the league, but their greatest work came in the playoffs, allowing only 3 points to the 49ers and shutting-out the defending Super Bowl champs, the Washington Redskins. Phil Simms and the offense had to do very little with a D like this.
1. Chicago Bears (1985)
Behind Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense, the 1985 Chicago Bears were nearly unstoppable. Their lone loss came fittingly to the Miami Dolphins late in the season. The playoffs that year were a joke. The Bears gave up a ridiculous total of 10 points through 3 games. While the 1985 Bears will always be best known for the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” their defense was truly legendary.