The NFL has been running since 1919, and it’s incredibly difficult to rank how good a team was that played 30 years ago to how good a team is that played last year. If the 1966 Packers played against the 2013 Texans, the Texans would stomp their guts out. In order to rank these teams, era is a big factor, and even if a team would be awful today, it only matters how dominant they were in their own time.
The 5 Honorable Mentions
5. The 1991 Detroit Lions (12-4)
The 1991 Lions weren’t a truly dominant team, losing their opening day game 45-0 and losing later to San Francisco 35-3. After a shaky 6-4 start, the Lions were united by tragedy after offensive lineman Mike Utley was paralyzed. He gave the crowd a thumbs-up gesture as he was carted off the field, and the Lions began to play inspired football. They rattled off 6 straight wins, one of which was against defending AFC Champion Buffalo, and then soundly defeated the upstart Cowboys 38-6 in the first ever playoff game played in the Silverdome. The Lions, however, were blown out in the NFC Title game 41-10 by the Redskins.
4. The 1980 San Diego Chargers (11-5)
The 1980 Chargers were the most well-rounded Air Coryell team, and even though they wouldn’t be very good at all without the innovative system. San Diego ultimately fell short of the Super Bowl against a fantastic Oakland secondary, but because they were so awesome throwing the ball (John Jefferson, Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner were all 1,000 yard receivers), they earn an honorable mention spot.
3. The 1988 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
I’ve written an article on the ’88 Bengals before, and they were certainly a dominant team. Coming off a disappointing 4-11 season in 1987, the Bengals ambushed an unsuspecting NFL by producing the No.1 offense and a clutch, hard-nosed defense. The Bengals outplayed the 49ers through three quarters in the Super Bowl, but fell victim to Joe Montana’s final drive.
2. The 1998 Atlanta Falcons (14-2)
A confusing entry indeed. The Falcons made the Super Bowl, yes, but they upset the vastly superior Vikings in the NFC title game. The season was a Cinderella story, sandwiched between 7-9 and 5-11 campaigns. Atlanta had a tough defense that binged on turnovers, and a balanced offense with Jamaal Anderson’s power and Chris Chandler delivering when he had to. The Broncos slammed them in the Super Bowl, so it’s normal to wonder what would happen if the Falcons had lost that conference title game.
1. The 1973 Minnesota Vikings (12-2)
The 1973 team was, in my opinion, the best that reached the Super Bowl in the 1970s. The defense was feverish, led by Alan Page, and the offense was smooth, quarterbacked by Fran Tarkenton and equipped with a balanced run game. However, the 1973 Dolphins, coming off their perfect season, hadled them in the Super Bowl 24-7.
Other considerations: 2001 Patriots, 1981 Chargers, 1986 Giants, 1982 Redskins, 1957 Browns
Disqualified: 2007 Patriots
Reason: Spygate and the refusal of Robert Kraft to fire Bill Belichick afterwards.
To the real list!
30. The 1998 New York Jets (12-4)
Post-season finish: 23-10 loss to Denver, AFC Championship
The ’98 Jets serve as an example for how much a good coach and some talented players can produce. In 1996, the Jets had gone 1-15. They fired Rich Kotite, brought in Bill Parcells, and went 9-7 in 1997. In 1998, they formed a talented roster, singing Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde, and Bryan Cox on defense. The results were mind-blowing: New York won their first AFC East title ever, and cruised through the playoffs. They lost to a great Denver team, whom they lead 10-0 at one point in the game, but all is forgiven.
According to Football Outsiders, the Jets were the best team in the league in 1998, mainly due to schedule strength.
29. The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars (14-2)
Post-season finish: 33-14 loss to Tennessee, AFC Championship
A lot of you will be scratching your head on this one, and I don’t blame you. Nobody ever includes the best team in the history of the Jaguars franchise in the conversation of the “greatest teams ever”, which shouldn’t be the way it is. The Jaguars combined a big-play, running-oriented offense and the NFL’s No.4 ranked defense to go 14-0 against the NFL, but 0-2 against divisional rival Tennessee. After a 62-7 annihilation of the Dolphins in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, the Jags faltered in the AFC title game, giving up a safety and a punt return touchdown…in succession. However, the ’99 Jaguars finally get the credit they deserve on this list, with a comparatively low spot.
28. The 1983 Los Angeles Raiders (12-4)
Post-season finish: Won Super Bowl XVIII against Washington, 38-9
I’m one of the few people that realizes the 1983 Raiders’ Super Bowl win was a tremendous upset. This wasn’t 1976, the Raiders were only 12-4. Their defense wasn’t very good at all, giving up 21.1 points per game, while the offense produced 27.6. They weren’t a dominant team, not even close to the Redskins, but strange things can happen in a one-game situation. The Raiders also faced a tremendously easy playoff schedule, easily handling 10-6 Pittsburgh and 9-7 Seattle. But, they blew out the Redskins in the Super Bowl, so that counts for a lot. Otherwise, breaking news to Raider fans: These guys were not that great.
27. The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
Post-season finish: Won Super Bowl IV against Minnesota, 23-7
The 1969 Chiefs are looked at as a team that wasn’t fantastic, but managed to beat the superior Vikings in the Super Bowl, but they were actually very, very tough. Len Dawson made plays when he had to, the running game was punishing, and “The Redwood Forest” defense was outstanding, giving up fewer than two touchdowns per game. They only allowed 20 points in three post-season contests, and the complex tactics and scheme of Hank Stram were too much for the ancient offenses of the 1960s. Eight future Hall of Famers played on this team, including K Jan Stenerud.
26. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings (15-1)
Post-season finish: 30-27 loss to Atlanta, NFC Championship
The 1998 Vikings were a very special team. Helped along by the rebirth of Randall Cunningham, the Vikings went on to be the highest scoring team ever, up to that point. Randy Moss set a rookie receiving record with 17 touchdowns. Cris Carter caught touchdowns, and regular passes, and just helped the team win. Jake Reed bowled over everyone, and Robert Smith gained over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. The defense wasn’t great, but they did have John Randle. They beat Arizona 41-21 in the playoffs, before choking against Atlanta, missing a field goal that would have secured a Minnesota victory. Up to that point, they were only the third team ever to go 15-1, and the only one not to win the Super Bowl.
25. The 1983 Washington Redskins (14-2)
Post-season finish: 38-9 loss in Super Bowl XVIII to Los Angeles
How can I rank the winner of Super Bowl XVIII below the losers? Well, simple. The losers were the better team, and would have beaten Los Angeles 9 out of 10 times. This was just that one time. The Redskins steamrolled through their schedule, and would have been 15-1 if not for a last second missed field goal against Green Bay. The Redskins set an NFL record for points scored, 541, that stood until Minnesota broke it in 1998. They were the first team since the NFL-AFL merger to record more than 60 takeaways, with 61, and also set a league record with a turnover differential of +43. They crushed the Rams in the divisional playoffs 51-7. However, in the Super Bowl, Rocket Screen crushed their hopes before halftime, and they never recovered.
24. The 1984 Miami Dolphins (14-2)
Post-season finish: 38-16 loss in Super Bowl XIX to San Francisco
Another 14-2 team that was blown out in the Super Bowl. The Dolphins seemed unstoppable, with Dan Marino passing for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns. Mark Clayton and Mark Duper (“The Marks Brothers”) seemed unbeatable, recording all sorts of gaudy numbers. The offense was unbelievable, but the defense was average to be kind. After easily making their way through the AFC playoffs, the Dolphins broke down against San Francisco and their west-coast offense, unable to stop the receptions of Roger Craig and Joe Montana’s rushing. Marino, who never got sacked, spent the entire game getting hit by the 49ers’ formidable defense. Maybe the ’84 Dolphins should be a little higher, sure, but there is a lot of competition ahead of them, and a 22 point Super Bowl loss is a blot on their season.
23. The 1973 Miami Dolphins (12-2)
Post-season finish: 24-7 win in Super Bowl VIII against Minnesota
The 1973 Dolphins were coming off a perfect season the year before (a true perfect season, with a 0 in the loss column, none of that 18-1 nonsense), and they seemed poised for a repeat title run. Some maligned Miami for a tremendously easy schedule in 1972, playing two teams with winning records (both were 8-6), and playing the league’s worst team (Houston, with a 1-13 record). However, in 1973, the Dolphins were more confident and in my opinion, a better team. This year, Bob Griese didn’t shatter his leg early in the season. The No-Name Defense was as fearsome as ever. Those two things in conjunction led the Dolphins to a 12-2 record. The rushing combo of Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris was unstoppable. In Super Bowl VIII, Bob Griese threw a record-low 7 passes, completing 6, as Larry Csonka literally carried the team to a 24-7 win over the Vikings.
22. The 1963 San Diego Chargers (11-3)
Post-season finish: 51-10 win in the AFL Title game against Boston
Sid Gillman’s high-flying passing attack featuring Tobin Rote and Lance Alworth sold tickets, but the uncontested running skill of Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe won the games. The defense did just enough to help the team win, as the Chargers breezed through their schedule, torching New York 53-7 and Denver 58-20 on the way. The Chargers were firing on all cylinders against Boston, as they easily won 51-10. Kind of the opposite of what happened in 1994, the only other championship team of the franchise being blown away by San Francisco.
21. The 2009 New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Post-season finish: 31-17 win in Super Bowl XLIV against Indianapolis
The Saints’ biggest selling point in 2009 was their offense. Along with Drew Brees’ pinpoint passing, the running attack was forgotten, even though it ranked 6th in total rushing yards. The defense loved turnovers, just loved ’em. They not only shut down Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald in the playoffs, they stole the ball 5 times from a usually mistake-free offense featuring Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson (who is now currently in the clink), and then clinched the Super Bowl with a late-game pick six of Peyton Manning.
20. The 1990 New York Giants
Post-season finish: 20-19 win in Super Bowl XXV against Buffalo
The Giants are one of the luckier Super Bowl champions in history, but according to Football Outsiders, they were a better team than the Buffalo Bills who had a perfect chance to beat them in the Super Bowl. I think that’s toss. The Giants had a mistake-free, grind-it-out offense and a historically great defense. Phil Simms was injured against Buffalo, and backup Jeff Hostetler filled in very well, going undefeated in every game he started, at the same time going 3-0 in the playoffs. The defense, however, was stifling. They only allowed 13.2 points per game against a very tough schedule – one that took the Giants through a crash course against 7 playoff-bound teams. In the playoffs, they held Chicago to a field goal, and stopped a great 49ers team cold in the NFC title game, holding them to 13 points. They then allowed 19 points to the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, but it really should have been 22.
19. The 1984 San Francisco 49ers (15-1)
Post-season finish: 38-16 win in Super Bowl XIX against Miami
The 1984 49ers are a team that gets forgotten constantly, a team that was quietly one of the best ever. The defense was crushing, giving up only 14.1 points per game, while the West Coast offense under coach Bill Walsh reached a new, celestial high. They averaged 29.6 points per game. Mean Fred Dean, Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright anchored the defense, while Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Freddie Solomon and Roger Craig were the stars on offense. Losing only once all season, a three-point decision to Pittsburgh, the 49ers rolled through the NFL and the playoffs, outscoring their two opponents 44-10 before manhandling the Dolphins in the Super Bowl.
18. The 1990 Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Post-season finish: 20-19 loss in Super Bowl XXV to New York
Another case of the losing Super Bowl team placing ahead of the team that won the Super Bowl, the 1990 Bills might not have been better than the Giants (according to advanced statistical analysis), but the Bills outplayed them in the Super Bowl, missing a field goal with :08 to go in the game that would have put them ahead for good. The Bills were led by a quick-striking, no huddle offense that was captained by Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and James Lofton. The defense was a “bend but don’t break” style unit. The offense scored the most points in the NFL, while the defense held up the fort. The 1990 squad was arguably the the best Bills team ever.
17. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Post-season finish: 29-17 win in Super Bowl XLI against Chicago
Peyton Manning and the offense were awesome in 2006, but the defense was unheralded. They held the Ravens and Chiefs to only 14 points in the playoffs, before holding the Bears’ offense to only 10 (another touchdown came thanks to Devin Hester). While at home in the AFC Title game, the Colts trailed the Patriots 21-3 before mounting a furious comeback, getting the better of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, while simultaneously proving they were championship-worthy. Strangely, the Colts surrendered 5.33 yards-per-rushing attempt, the worst since the merger and the 7th worst all time. They still put up a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl victory, though.
16. The 1977 Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
Post-season finish: 27-10 win in Super Bowl XII against Denver
The Cowboys in 1977 were dominant on both sides of the ball, scoring the most points in the league (345) and giving up only 212, an average of 13.2 per game. They finished first in the NFC East, while rookie Tony Dorsett burst onto the scene, being selected for the All-Pro team and Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Cowboys boasted three All-Pros, the NFL’s leading receiver, the NFL’s leader in sacks, and Harvey Martin, the NFL’s defensive player of the year. Pretty good if you ask me. They easily handled the Broncos in the Super Bowl, later on.
15. The 1999 St. Louis Rams (13-3)
Post-season finish: 23-16 win in Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee
The 1999 Rams were one of the most surprising teams on the list, coming off a 4-12 season in 1998 in which nothing went right. Marshall Faulk was acquired, and Arena League star Kurt Warner was named the starter after Trent Green suffered a season ending injury in the pre-season. Warner threw for over 4,000 yards and became only the second quarterback in history to that point to throw for over 40 touchdowns, with 41. Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace assisted Warner and Faulk on offense, and the defense did their job as the Rams beat the Vikings and Buccaneers 49-37 and 11-6 in the playoffs, before they beat Tennessee 23-16.
I don’t understand why everyone says “If Kevin Dyson gets in on the final play in the Super Bowl, the Titans win”. Clearly, you need to go back to math class. The Titans were trailing by 7, not 6 or less. A touchdown would have tied the game and sent the game into the only Super Bowl overtime ever. I can’t tell you how much that annoys me.
14. The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
Post-season finish: 48-21 win in Super Bowl XXXVII against Oakland
The 2002 Buccaneers had a historically great defense, but unlike other teams who that can be said about, their offense was actually pretty good. There wasn’t any horrific team imbalance. That being said, the Bucs weren’t an offensive explosion, but Brad Johnson, Keyshawn Johnson and Mike “You’re in Good Hands with” Alstott did a good enough job to average 21.6 points per game. Good enough if you look at the defense. The 2002 Buccaneers’ defense became the first team since the 1985 Bears to lead the league in total defense, points allowed and interceptions. They held opposing quarterbacks to a miserable 48.4 rating. They held teams to 12.25 points per game. The team had 6 Pro Bowlers, and 5 All-Pros…all of which were defensive players.
13. The 1996 Green Bay Packers (13-3)
Post-season finish: 35-21 win in Super Bowl XXXI against New England
The Packers were one of the most dominant teams ever in 1996, as they had the NFL’s best offensive player (Brett Favre), the best defensive player (Reggie White), and the best special teams player (Desmond Howard). Brett Favre won his second straight MVP award, throwing for 39 touchdowns, as Green Bay scored the most points (456) while giving up the fewest (210). They also set a single-season record for punt return yardage, thanks in part to the previously mentioned Howard. They set a then-NFL record for the fewest amount of touchdowns allowed in a 16 game season with 19, while allowing the fewest yards as well. Convinced yet?
Green Bay defeated San Francisco in post-season play for the second year in a row, before beating the frigid Panthers at home. New England gave them a pretty good run in the Super Bowl, losing by only 14, and if they block a little better on offense and the kick coverage handles Desmond Howard, they might have won.
12. The 1968 Baltimore Colts (13-1)
Post-season finish: Lost Super Bowl III to New York, 16-7
The only team within the Top 15 that didn’t win a championship, the 1968 Colts were one of the most complete and dominant teams ever. In their average game, the Colts outscored their opponents 28-10. They had a brutal defense, a wide-open offense and both the league’s MVP quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall. If Baltimore doesn’t choke the Super Bowl against the Jets, they’d be the best team ever to play the game of football.
11. The 1976 Oakland Raiders (13-1)
Post-season finish: 32-14 win in Super Bowl XI against Minnesota
The Raiders were a hotpot of superstars in 1976, with Ken Stabler being only the third man in the decade of the 70s to compile a quarterback rating of over 100 (103.4) as he threw for 27 touchdowns. The team was studded with stars: Stabler, Cliff Branch, Fred Biletnikoff, Dave Casper, Mark Van Eeghen, and uh…Ray Guy. Defense as well, with guys like Jack Tatum, Phil Villapiano, and Willie Brown. The Raiders were 4th in the league in scoring and were 12th in points allowed. However, if Sugar Bear Ray Hamilton doesn’t get jobbed in the AFC Wild Card game, the Raiders might not have made it out of it.
10. The 1998 Denver Broncos (14-2)
Post-season finish: 34-19 win in Super Bowl XXXIII against Atlanta
John Elway led the late 80s Broncos teams to three Super Bowls, losing all three, and the media wondered what it would be like if Elway was surrounded by depth and talent. Well, in 1998, it finally all clicked. An offense led by John Elway and Terrell Davis, with a defense that included Neil Smith dominated the league. Although Atlanta spoiled an epic Super Bowl duel between 15-1 Minnesota and 14-2 Denver, the Broncos exacted revenge on the Cinderella Falcons, speaking volumes for the state of Minnesota and the entirety of the United States. Except Georgia. They didn’t like it.
9. The 1961 Packers (11-3)
Post-season finish: 37-0 win in NFL Championship Game against New York
All the Lombari Packer teams were great, but the 1961 team was the best, due to their dismantling of the perennial contender Giants in the Championship game, 37-0. Green Bay also scored the most points in the league while giving up the second fewest. The defense was stacked with Hall of Famers, and Paul Hornung was finally not injured for the season. Bart Starr and Jim Taylor rounded out the backfield, and the team had two Hall of Fame O-Linemen, Forrest Gregg and Jerry Kramer.
8. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
Post-season finish: 34-7 win in Super Bowl XXXV over New York
Not much to say about the Ravens, other than their defense was one of the best ever. Their offense was mistake prone, suffering through multiple games in which they couldn’t score a touchdown. Tony Banks was mainly responsible for it, turning the ball over at a Geno Smith-like pace, and the team only broke out of the slumber when Trent Dilfer took over midseason. The offense was crap, it’s no use trying to sugarcoat it. The defense, however, was gold. It set records for points allowed in a 16 game season (165), and rushing yards allowed in a 16 game season (970). Jamal Lewis carried the offense, with 1,364 yards. However, the defense did enough on its own to win, and they blazed through the playoffs before crushing the Kerry Collins led Giants in the Super Bowl.
7. The 1991 Washington Redskins (14-2)
Post-season finish: 37-24 win in Super Bowl XXVI over Buffalo
The 1991 Redskins, like the 1990 Giants, were a swan song for the franchise’s dominant teams of the 1980s, in which old veterans played their final seasons. After 1991, the Redskins went 9-7 and then 4-12, while the Giants went 8-8 and 6-10 after their Super Bowl win.
But what a swan song they were.
The 1991 Redskins were one of, if not the most well rounded team ever, as they could pass, run, stop the pass and stop the run. Washington scored the most points in the league with 485, while allowing the second-fewest, 224. They finished with a turnover differential of +18. Quarterback Mark Rypien was a one year wonder, and his one year in the sun came in 1991. He led the league in yards-per-pass with 8.5, and his 3,564 passing yards ranked first in the NFC and fourth in the league. Two receivers, Gary Clark and Art Monk, surpassed 1,000 yards receiving. Running back Earnest Byner’s 1,048 rushing yards ranked 5th in the league.
Washington’s defense also allowed a league-best 6.0 yards-per-pass attempt. What makes the season so remarkable is that Washington did all this against a tough schedule, and a brutal defensive schedule, including two games against a team I just wrote an article on…the 1991 Eagles.
6. The 1972 Dolphins (14-0)
Post-season finish: 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII over Washington
This might ruffle some feathers. Some might say the 1991 Redskins and 2000 Ravens are much better than the 1972 Dolphins, and some might say they should be ranked higher. Well, like I said in the 1973 entry, the Dolphins faced, far and away, the league’s easiest schedule. They only played two teams with winning records, the Giants and the Chiefs, and both of those teams were 8-6. They also got to play Houston, who were 1-13. Well, regardless, the team went undefeated. And I don’t mean 2007 Patriots fake undefeated, I mean really undefeated. That deserves a lot of merit, as Earl Morrall (Griese’s backup after he went down against San Diego), Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris carried the offense. The No-Name Defense romped over the NFL, as the Dolphins gave up the fewest points while scoring the most. They had some scares in the playoffs, but nearly recorded the first and likely only Super Bowl shutout ever over Washington if not for Garo Yepremian’s screw-up.
5. The 1992 Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Post-season finish: 52-17 win in Super Bowl XXVII against Buffalo
The 1992 Cowboys set a franchise record for wins with 13. The offense was explosive, led by Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. TE Jay Novachek was also a big part of it, and they averaged 25.5 points per game as a unit. The defense, however, was the strength of the time. Although none of the players were named to the Pro Bowl or All-Pros, they were the league’s best. They were only the 3rd defense since 1980 to hold opponents to under 4,000 yards-only two historically great defenses did it before them, the 1984 Bears and the 1991 Eagles. The passing defense was ranked 5th. The rushing defense was ranked No.1, as did their number of first downs allowed. Their third down conversion allowance was staggering: they only allowed opponents to convert on 27.2 of the time. They set a club record by holding the miserable Seahawks to 62 yards, and held Chicago to under 100. They forced 9 turnovers in Super Bowl XXVII, as they shook, rattled and rolled the Bills 52-17 in what could have been 59-17 if not for Leon Lett’s famous goal line fumble.
4. The 1994 San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Post-season finish: 49-26 win in Super Bowl XXIX over San Diego
The 49ers in 1994 were humming. Jerry Rice broke the record for touchdowns scored in a game against the Raiders, and the 49ers’ average margin of victory was over 20 points. They passed 35 points seven times, and broke 40 points four times. The defense was strong, and although they got crushed by Philadelphia 40-8 in Week 5, San Francisco recovered well and finished 13-3. During the stretch, Steve Young completed 70.3% of his passes, and broke the record for quarterback rating in a season – his was 112.8. For the third consecutive time, the 49ers met the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Title game and defeated the two-time league defending champions soundly. In the Super Bowl, they faced the Chargers, who were widely regarded to be a Cinderella team. Young reinforced this notion by throwing 6 touchdown passes – a Super Bowl record that still stands.
3. The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers (14-2)
Post-season finish: 35-31 win in Super Bowl XIII against Dallas
The Steelers in 1978 were the best team of the decade, kind of like a 49er team we’ll get to in a minute. They bundled together an extremely lethal offense with a suffocating defense, the “Steel Curtain”, and put a grade-A beatdown on the rest of the NFL. Everywhere you looked, there was a Hall of Famer. On offense, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster. On defense, more of them, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and more. They averaged 25.4 points per game on offense, and gave up 13.9. The two losses were not important, as they lost to Houston by 7 points and the Rams by 3. They then whupped the Broncos 33-10 and undressed Houston 34-5 in the AFC title game. However, if Jackie Smith catches a gimme in the endzone, there’s one less Lombardi Trophy on the South Side.
2. The 1985 Chicago Bears (15-1)
Post-season finish: 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX against New England
The 1985 Bears are the very definition of dominant. They had Jim McMahon, who, while frequently injured, engineered big plays for Chicago, pulling them past Minnesota in Week 3 with touchdown passes on his first, second and seventh throws of the game, igniting a Bears comeback. Walter Payton, one of the best running backs ever, and he ran all over the league in 1985. WR Willie Gault made plays as well, and altogether they were second in scoring with 456 points, but that was about it for the offense. However, who needs info on them when you have the best defense ever? Employing Buddy Ryan’s famous 46 defense, the Bears were first in scoring defense, gave up only 198 points in the regular season, an average of 12.4 per game. They led the league in turnover differential with +23. They recorded 4 shutouts in total, 2 in the postseason against the Giants and Rams. NFL Top 10 ranked the Bears’ linebacking core #5 all time. The most famous moment of the season came against the Lions, in which Leonard Marshall knocked Detroit quarterback Joe Ferguson unconscious. In the Super Bowl, they recorded a safety, and for a long period of time held the Patriots to negative yardage.
1. The 1989 San Francisco 49ers (14-2)
Post-season finish: 55-10 win in Super Bowl XXIV against Denver
In 1989, quarterback Joe Montana was the centerpiece of a masterful team. He set a new regular season record for quarterback rating with 112.4, but played better in the post-season, completing nearly 80% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Jerry Rice was unstoppable, and John Taylor made some crucial plays as well, including two 90+ yard touchdown catches against Los Angeles. The running game, led by Roger Craig and Tom Rathman, was efficient, crisp, and complete. On defense, Ronnie Lott still cracked skulls, despite missing a few games due to injuries. Pierce Holt, Kevin Fagan and Charles Haley were constantly getting after opposing quarterbacks, while Mike Walter, Keena Turner and Matt Millen (before he was putting the Lions in the toilet) anchored the linebacking corps. But if only because San Francisco blew the roof off Denver in the Super Bowl, they get the nod to be considered the greatest team ever to play the game.
A few might have noticed the article didn’t seem finished upon its release, I just had to go back in, restore the draft and update it. Sorry for the confusion.