Defense wins championships, as the saying goes. But of course, when it comes to excitement, ratings, the MVP front-runners, and seemingly every rule change over the last 20 years, the NFL much prefers offense over defense.
Has the league’s love of high scores and quarterbacks who can throw the ball all over the field shifted the balance in the Super Bowl?
Does defense really still win championships, or does a great offense overcome that in today’s NFL? Place your Super Bowl Bets today and find out on Sunday…
Super Bowl Matchups with Top Scoring Defense vs Top Scoring Offense
Super Bowl LI
The last time the top-scoring offense in the league and the top-scoring defense met in the Super Bowl was when the Falcons and Patriots squared off. Atlanta had Matt Ryan at quarterback, the league’s MVP, and the highest-scoring offense in the NFL at 33.8 points per game.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 19 rushing touchdowns, and All-Pro Julio Jones was in the prime of his career, And heading into the Super Bowl, the Falcons had won six straight, averaging 39 points per game.
We all remember what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. That great offense got out to a great start, and went up on the best defense in the league, 28-3. But the New England defense finally stiffened, and they outscored Atlanta 19-0 in the fourth quarter, and eventually won in overtime.
Super Bowl XLVIII
Three years earlier, we had another No. 1 scoring offense vs. No. 1 scoring defense meeting in the Super Bowl. It was the Denver Broncos, who had MVP Peyton Manning and his record-setting season of 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards. The 37.9 points per game averaged by the Broncos was also an NFL record.
On the other side was the Legion of Boom, who allowed just 14.4 points per game. Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman were at the height of their powers in 2013, and they were at their very best in that Super Bowl.
The Broncos didn’t score fewer than 20 points in any game before the Super Bowl, and three times they scored more than 50. But Seattle destroyed the Broncos that day at the Meadowlands, 43-8.
Huge advantage defense.
Super Bowl XXV
We have to go back all the way to the 1990 season to find the last time the No. 1 scoring offense and the No. 1 scoring defense did battle in the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills had their no-huddle offense that averaged 26.8 points per game.
That Bills team was the highest-scoring team that season, but doesn’t even rank in the top 100 of NFL teams all-time. So it wasn’t your typical high-powered offense. The Giants, however, were everything you wanted in a great defense.
New York allowed just 13.2 points per game in 1990, and seven times they held their opponent to less than 10 points, including a 31-3 win over the Chicago Bears in the playoffs. And they finished the job in the Super Bowl, winning 20-19 over the Bills.
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