Ranking the best Super Bowl defenses

Darryl Norenberg-US PRESSWIRE

Much has been made of Seattle's defensive performance in Super Bowl XLVIII. How does it match up with the Steelers and other great Super Bowl defenses?

The Seahawks defensive mastery in Super Bowl XLVIII was a throwback to a different time.

In an era where offense has become the main attraction, Seattle's defense stole the show in stunning fashion. They blitzed, leveled, and yapped their way to a 43-8 win over the highest scoring offense in NFL history.

Seattle's defense actually tied Denver's offense in scoring, although the noise of the "12th Man" should have been credicted with the first two points of Super Bowl XLVIII.

But where does Seattle's defensive effort stand in the ranks of the all-time great Super Bowl performances? Listed below are some other stellar Super Bowl defensive efforts to consider.

While the list is in chronological order, their ranking is next to the number of the Super Bowl. Teams without numbers are honorable mention. Quality of opponent, turnovers forced, yards and points allowed were among the factors in the rankings.

Super Bowl I:  Green Bay  35   Chiefs 10

The Packers dominance exposed the fact that the AFC wasn't quite ready to compete on football's highest level. After a surprisingly strong start by the Chiefs' offense, Green Bay shut out Kansas City in the second half as Willie Wood's pick in the third quarter led to a Elijah Pitts touchdown that broke the game open. Kansas City was held to 239 yards and 3-of-13 efficiency on third down.

10) Super Bowl III: Jets 16   Colts 7

Johnny Sample and the Jets secondary intercepted Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas four times and shut out the 19.5 point favorite Colts for most of the game in the greatest upset in pro football history.

Super Bowl IV: Cheifs 23  Vikings 7

Kansas City reinforced that the AFL was ready to merge with the NFL as the Chiefs defense forced two interceptions while allowing only 239 total yards against Joe Kapp and the powerful Minnesota offense.

7) Super Bowl IV: Cowboys 24   Dolphins 3

This the only Super Bowl where a team was held without a touchdown. Dallas' Doomsday defense held Brian Griese and Miami to only 10 first downs and 185 total yards. While Defensive backs Herb Adderley and Mel Renfro held Paul Warfield to only 39 yards on four catches, the Cowboys forced Larry Czonka to fumble for the first time in 238 carries. Bob Lilly punctuated Dallas' dominant day by sacking Griese for a Super Bowl record 29 yard loss.

6) Super Bowl VII: Dolphins 14   Redskins 7

Miami got their revenge the next year, holding the Redskins offense scoreless. While safety Jake Scott took home the game's MVP honors by intercepting quarterback Billy Kilmer twice, defensive linemen Manny Fernandez devastated the 'Skins by tallying 17 tackles and a sack. While running back Larry Brown was able to rush for 72 yards, the Dolphins short circuited every Redskins drive by holding Washington to 3-of-13 on third down. Linebacker Nick Buoniconti also recorded an interception as the Dolphins capped the only undefeated season in NFL history.

1) Super Bowl IX: Steelers 16   Vikings  6

Simply put, the Steel Curtain overwhelmed the favored Vikings in Pittsburgh's first Super Bowl. They recorded the game's first points and the first ever safety in Super Bowl history when Dwight White tagged Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton in the end zone in the second quarter. They picked off scramblin' Fran three times and held him to 102 yards passing. White, Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and company stonewalled the Vikings running game to the tune of 17 yards rushing on 21 carries. Pittsburgh still holds the Super Bowl record for fewest yards allowed in Super Bowl history with 119. Minnesota's only touchdown came on a blocked punt.

Super Bowl X: Steelers 21  Cowboys 17

An underrated effort. Jack Lambert's takedown of Cliff Harris with Pittsburgh trailing 10-7 changed the complexion of the game. White and Greenwood's six sacks helped Pittsburgh sack Roger Staubach a Super Bowl record seven times. They also intercepted him three times that included a pick by Mike Wagner that helped give Pittsburgh the lead for good.

8) Super Bowl XII: Cowboys 27   Broncos 10

Doomsday struck again in the first ever Super Bowl played in a dome. Dallas held their former quarterback, Craig Morton and the Broncos' offense to a putrid 2.7 yards per play average. Morton and backup Norris Weese were held to 61 yards on 8-of-25 passing. Dallas' swarming defense forced Norton into throwing four interceptions as linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White became the only co-Super Bowl MVPs.

Super Bowl XV: Raiders 27   Eagles 10

Oakland intimidated the favored Eagles all afternoon. Rod Martin intercepted Ron Jaworski a Super Bowl record three times while Reggie Kinlaw and Oakland's rush defense held Wilbert Montgomery to only 44 yards rushing.

Super Bowl XVII: Redskins 27   Dolphins 17

While they didn't face one of the better offenses in Super Bowl history, when a defense holds an offense to just 176 total yards while not allowing a single completed pass in the second half, they have to get some praise. Dexter Manley and Mark Murphey led Washington's defensive charge.

3) Super Bowl XVIII: Raiders 38   Redskins 9

In my opinion, Seattle's win over Denver is very similar to the whipping the Raiders put on the favored Redskins. Washington set the NFL regular season record for points that included a 37-35 win over Los Angeles in the regular season. The defending Super Bowl champion Redskins where being hailed as one of the best teams ever. That all changed after Super Bowl XVIII. Just as Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor did to Denver's wideouts, Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes held the celebrated 'Skins vaunted receiving corps to just five catches. Howie Long and the defensive line brought down Joe Thiesman six times while holding John Riggins to a mere 64 yards rushing. Like Seattle's pick six just before the half two weeks ago, the Raiders Jack Squirek picked off a Washington screen pass and waltzed five yards into the end zone just before the half to put Los Angeles ahead at halftime, 21-3. The shell shocked Redskins would never recover.

Super Bowl XIX: 49ers 38  Dolphins 16

Fans tuned into this game to see a prolific offense do its thing on the game's biggest stage. The irony was that the wrong offense showed up. Dan Marino's record breaking '84 season was upstaged by Joe Montana's three touchdown effort in this game. Jack Reynolds, Ronnie Lott and the Niners shut out Duper, Clayton, Marino and the rest of the Dolphins offense in the second half. They intercepted Marino twice and held Miami to only four-of-12 on third downs.

2) Super Bowl XX: Bears 46  Patriots 10

The Bears 46 defense manhandled the Patriots. Led by Mike Singletary and MVP Richard Dent, Chigaco held New England to nine rushing yards. The Bears limited the Patriots to just 123 total yars and 1-for-10 on third down.

Super Bowl XXII: Redskins 42   Broncos 10

Washington shut out Denver during the last three quarters, intercepting John Elway three times. Elway was limited to just 14-of-38 passing and 2-of-12 efficiency on third down.

9) Super Bowl XXIV: 49ers 55   Broncos 10

Now this one was just plain ugly. Denver averaged just 3.2 yards per play as Elway managed just 108 yards on 10-of-26 passing with two picks. The Broncos converted on just three of 11 third downs in the wost super bowl beating ever.

Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20  Bills 19

Like Super Bowl X, this defensive effort is also underrated. Facing a Bills offense that had just scored 51 points a week earlier, Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick instructed his defense to let Thurman Thomas to rush for over 100 yards while focusing on shutting down the Bills passing game. While Thomas rushed for 135 yards, Emerson Walls and New York's secondary punished Buffalo's receivers and allowed its offense to control the ball for over 40 minutes. Bills receiver Andre Reed said afterwards that he had never been hit so hard (before).

Super Bowl XXVII: Cowboys 52   Bills 17

Dallas forced a Super Bowl record nine turnovers in turning a competitive game early into a route. Jimmy Jones and Ken Norton Jr. turned two of those turnovers into touchdowns. Thomas Everett's end zone pick sealed a pivotal goal line stand in the second quarter. The game's most revealing statistic? Troy Aikman outrushed Thurman Thomas 28-19.

Super Bowl XXVIII: Cowboys 30   Bills 13

Dallas shut out the Bills in the second half after trailing 13-6 at intermission. Get a load of the stat line for James Washington: 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, recovered fumble, and a defensive touchdown.

5) Super Bowl XXXV: Ravens 34  Giants   7

Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense held the Giants offense out of the end zone. They intercepted Kerry Collins four times while limiting New York to just 152 yards for an average of 2.6 yards per play. Baltimore held the Giants to 11 first downs and 2-of-14 efficiency on third down.

Super Bowl XXXVI:Patriots 20  Rams 17

The Patriots' defense held the Greatest Show on Turf to just three points until late in the fourth quarter. New England's hard charging defense forced two Kurt Warner interceptions and a pick six by Ty Law. New England also contained running back Marshall Faulk while holding St. Louis to only 5-of-11 efficiency on third down.

Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay 48  Oakland 21

While they did give up 21 points to the Raiders, Tampa's defense scored three touchdowns of their own. Dwight Smith, Dexter Jackson, and Derrick Brooks collaborated to pick off Rich Gannon a Super Bowl record five times against John Gruden's former team.

Super Bowl XL: Steelers 21   Seahawks 10

Pittsburgh held the highest scoring offense in the NFL that season to just 10 points. A clutch sack by Casey Hampton and a pick by Ike Taylor late sealed the Steelers' fifth Super Bowl victory. Seahawks hurt themselves by committing several costly offensive penalties.

Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17  Patriots 14

The G-Men held Tom Brady and the previously undefeated Patriots offense to just 274 net yards. New York took away Brady's running game as the Pats gained just 45 yards on the ground for an average of 2.8 yards per rush. Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan led a defensive charge that got to Brady five times.

4) Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks 43   Broncos  8

The Seahawks held Denver's record scoring offense to just 306 total yards while forcing four turnovers. They also held the Broncos to 5-of-11 efficiency on third down. Peyton Manning did complete a Super Bowl record 34 passes, but his interception returned for a touchdown by Malcolm Smith put his team in a 22-0 hole. And underrated stat is that Seattle held Denver's rushing game to only 27 yards rushing on 13 carries.

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