The Denver Broncos rode a dominant defense all season and shut down the prolific Carolina Panthers offense in Super Bowl 50. Now the players on that defense want to be recognized as the greatest defensive unit ever.
For decades that designation has belonged to the 1985 Chicago Bears, but the Broncos staked their claim by tying that Bears team for the most sacks ever in a Super Bowl. While Von Miller wasn't ready to make comparisons to other defenses after his Super Bowl MVP performance, his teammates weren't as diplomatic.
"You're going to ask me? No. 1. No. 1 in my opinion, over '85 Bears," Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan told Dan Hanzus of NFL.com after the win. "If not No. 1, No. 2. I feel like we did a good job playing our games. It wasn't ever pretty, but when you put it in our defense's hand we always come up with that win."
Statistically, it's not close. The Bears held seven teams under 10 points in the regular season and recorded back-to-back shutouts in the postseason to get to Super Bowl XX where they blew out the New England Patriots, 46-10. Opposing offenses averaged 10.9 points in the 19 games for the Bears, while Broncos opponents averaged 17.9 points.
Realistically though, the Bears numbers will never be touched after 30 years of evolution in the NFL has yielded more offense and has made it more difficult than ever for defenses to slow opponents down.
"We proved we're the No. 1 defense," Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe told the Denver Post. "If you ask me, or anybody on this defense, we're the best to ever do it."
The same sentiments were echoed by linebacker Brandon Marshall and cornerback Chris Harris.
@ChrisHarrisJr: "I think we are the best ever."— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 8, 2016
The have a case to make, too. The Broncos are world champions thanks to a defense that made some of the best players in the NFL look bad.
During the team's postseason run it held Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton without passing touchdowns, and allowed just one to Tom Brady. Ultimately, they can't quite compare to a Bears defense that allowed 123 yards and forced six turnovers in a Super Bowl win, but Denver's dominant streak against a few of the NFL's top quarterbacks at least puts them in the conversation among the all-time bests.