Clearly, the Buccaneers' defense is great, but how great are they?
Are they one of the all-time great units in the history of the NFL? Yes, but they aren't among the top three of all-time: the 85' Bears, the 76' Steelers and the 2000 Ravens. For some reason or another, a number of media heads have already vaulted the Buccaneers past Pittsburgh and lumped them with the Ravens defense, while still not placing them on the same pedestal as the Bears have occupied for close to 20 years.
The 85' Bears stand alone as the best single season defense of all-time. However, the Buccaneers aren't in the same class with Pittsburgh or Baltimore.
For one, the Buccaneers' defense never really distinguished any kind of historical greatness during their Super Bowl run. While you may say that stats are for geeks, and they are to some degree, they also speak volumes about a certain player's dominance or in this case, a certain unit's overall supremacy.
Pittsburgh's defense may have had advantages because they kept the unit together for most of the decade and the rules were skewed against offenses, but that doesn't diminish what the Steelers were able to accomplish.
The Steelers set the record for allowing the least amount of points per game in a given the season and the unit gave up the least amount of total points during the course of a 14 game schedule. They also shut out five teams that season, setting an all-time record. Then there's the number of hall-of-famers on that team, like Lambert, Green and Ham.
Now, as for that comparison to the Ravens, well, there is no comparison for now.
The Ravens of 2000 are like the red headed step child of this group because they had the least amount of big names on their team other than Lewis, Woodson and Siragusa. Then there's that little problem of the media loathing them because they talked a lot of trash against every team they played.
Still, you have to give this unit their props because they were just flat out nasty.
For all of the hype surrounding Tampa's dominance over a great Oakland offense that was among the best of all-time, the Ravens dominated a Denver offense that averaged more yardage per game than Oakland did this past season and the Broncos scored more points too. The Oakland offense which Baltimore dominated back in 2000 may not have been as good as the 2002 version, but they too scored more points per game and were a more balanced unit, leading the league in rushing offense.
Then there are the statistical comparisons. The Ravens gave up a total of 23 points in four playoff games; Tampa Bay gave up a total of 21 points in one game against the Raiders. The Ravens gave up slightly more than five points per game during their playoff run; Tampa Bay gave up around 12.3 points, while playing in one less game.
The Ravens also shut out four teams, which ranks second to the Steelers record; Tampa Bay shut out two teams. The Ravens also gave up the least amount of total points in a given season, which is a well documented record, while also giving up 10 points per game, which is also second to the Steelers.
The rushing records that Baltimore smashed don't need to be mentioned, because clearly, the Buccaneers or any other defense for that matter can't compare in that category.
Of course, if you want to be even more technical, Baltimore also gave up less total yardage per game (147), which ranked second to Tennessee in 2000, but they still gave up less total yardage per game than Tampa Bay (152) did this season.
I will say this though; Tampa Bay clearly had a better pass rush, which enabled their pass defense to play at a higher level. Also, the Buccaneers rank fourth in the points category, giving up 191 during the course of this season, which is a great feat.
Still, they aren't in the Ravens' class, even if the separation isn't that great. For now players like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks will just have to be satisfied with being placed in the second tier of great defenses along with the Doomsday defense, the No Name D, the Tennessee defense from 2000 and the 86' Giants…
The other big debate buzzing around the water coolers is whether the Buccaneers can repeat as Super Bowl champions. A