I’ve seen some recent chatter that debates which Ravens’ defense was better: The 2000 or 2006 defense. Some…uhhh… “analysts” (yeah, let’s call them analysts) out there like Skip Bayless also claim that the 2013 Seahawks were better than any Ravens defense ever. These debates piqued my interest. So today’s Flashback Friday swings down memory lane and looks at three of the best defenses of the last 15 years. Let’s dive in, shall we?
The following chart compares the three respective defenses by looking at a few statistics.
Oh, boy. What say you now, Skip Bayless? The 2000 Ravens defense tops the 2006 team as well as the 2013 Seahawks in almost every major statistical category. Yeah, the 2006 Ravens absolutely pummeled quarterbacks that year, sacking the quarterback an astonishing 60 times. But is that really enough to suggest that the 2006 team was better than the 2000 team? No. Not even close.
Similarly, the 2013 Seahawks gave up the fewest passing yards per game. Congratulations on that. But look across the board. The 2000 Ravens were statistically superior everywhere else.
A lot of skeptics want to point to how the offensive schemes have evolved over the years and how the early 2000s comprised a different era with different rules that limit offenses. That is a valid point, to a degree. But (and this actually came as a surprise to me), more teams averaged more than 30 points a game in 2000 than in 2013. The Ravens’ brass built a defense that was specifically tailored around how offensive schemes were run back then: the running game was featured more heavily 15 years ago than it is today.
In today’s era, the passing game seems to rule. And the Seahawks still gave up fewer passing yards per game than the 2000 Ravens, which is actually quite an accomplishment. It’s easy to blindly look at the stats above and see that the 2000 Ravens defense was superior to the 2013 Seahawks and just end the discussion right there. And, while the 2000 Ravens were still better, it’s closer than many people probably realize. But not that close.
The 2013 Seahawks gave up 40 points in their three playoff games, including the eight they surrendered to Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. That Broncos offense is still considered to be one of the most prolific in NFL history. That is no small accomplishment.
The 2000 Ravens gave up only 23 points in their four playoff games, so 17 less points in one more game. They faced the best passing offense (Denver) and the best rushing offense (Oakland) during their Super Bowl run. The Ravens held Tyrone Wheatley to seven rushing yards on 12 attempts in the AFC Championship Game against Oakland. That’s an average of 0.58 yards per carry. The Raiders’ leading rusher in the game was backup quarterback Bobby Hoying (13 yards), who replaced an injured Rich Gannon after Gannon was squashed by Tony Siragusa. The 2000 Ravens were just more impressive all-around, no matter what angle you want to take.
The picture is blurrier when comparing the 2006 Ravens to the 2013 Seahawks. The Ravens’ stats are more impressive, but the Seahawks were able to carry their team to a Super Bowl. If the 2006 Ravens were capable of getting into the end zone just once against the Colts in the 2006 playoffs, the picture may be a tad clearer. But look… We’re playing the “what if” game, now. I don’t do that.
It’s very close, but I’d rank the 2013 Seahawks higher than the 2006 Ravens. That’s debatable, however, and it’s an opinion not set in stone. Arguing in favor of either of those defenses over the 2000 Ravens team is, however, not debatable. If you want to make that argument, however, drop me a note in the comments section or find me on Twitter (@bakerspazing)
After establishing the 2000 Ravens as the best defense of the 21st century, next week we will compare the 2000 Ravens with the 1976 Steelers and the 1985 Bears to find out who really had the best defense in the entire history of the NFL.
SPOILER ALERT: I’ve already crunched the numbers, and it’s really, really close.