Historical perspective: Defense still rules

(SportsNetwork.com) - Richard Sherman praised Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' record-setting offense in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, but he did have one critique of Manning.

"He throws ducks," the outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback said.

In an era when NFL offenses have been more potent than ever, the Seahawks proved defense still wins championships.

The top-ranked Seahawks defense suffocated Manning and hauled in a few of his "ducks" en route to their 43-8 win on Sunday for the franchise's first Super Bowl title.

Seattle scored 21 points off four Denver turnovers.

It was an all-too-familiar script for Super Bowls pitting the NFL's top scoring offense against its top scoring defense. The team with the top defense has won four of the five matchups.

The first of these showdowns came at Super Bowl XIII when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 following the 1978 season. Pittsburgh came in yielding a league-best 12.2 points per game, but it was quarterback Terry Bradshaw leading the way after throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

The second meeting came after the 1984 season when Dan Marino and the top- ranked Miami Dolphins' offense fell to the San Francisco 49ers 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX.

Marino threw a then-NFL record 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes during the regular season, but tossed a pair of interceptions during the Super Bowl. He was 29-of-50 overall for 318 yards, many coming after the 49ers raced out to a 28-16 halftime lead.

Joe Montana and the 49ers in 1989 were the lone top-scoring offense to defeat a top-scoring defense in the Super Bowl. San Francisco routed the Broncos 55-10. The 49ers tallied 27 points in the first half. Denver hadn't allowed more than 28 points in a game that season.

The New York Giants' top-ranked 1990 defense edged the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV when Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide-right at the end of the game.

New York kept the ball away from Jim Kelly and Buffalo's high-powered no- huddle attack, holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.

The NFL implemented rules to help the passing game in 1978, including one that allowed less bumping of wide receivers. In recent years the NFL has installed rules to protect the quarterback and receivers going over the middle.

Also, the additions of rub plays and the back-shoulder throw has made offenses even tougher to cover.

The 2013 season featured an NFL-record 70.8 passes per game, according to post on Grantland.com. More than 58 percent of all offensive plays were passes.

The "Legion of Boom" and the rest of the Seahawks defense thrived anyway.

During the regular season, Seattle not only led the NFL in fewest points allowed (231) and total defense (273.6 yards per game) but also in pass defense (172.0 ypg), takeaways (39), interceptions (28) and turnover differential (plus-20).

The final challenge came Sunday when the Seahawks shut down the NFL's all-time highest-scoring offense.

Denver's explosive attack -- the first in league history to score 600 points in the regular season -- was led by Manning, who set NFL single-season passing records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. But it never found a rhythm against the Seahawks.

The Broncos snapped the ball into the end zone for a Seattle safety and had a three-and-out before Manning threw a pair of interceptions on back-to-back possessions. The second one was returned 69 yards for a touchdown by the game's MVP, Malcolm Smith.

Denver turned the ball over on downs on its final possession of the first half and trailed 22-0 at the break.

Percy Harvin returned the opening second-half kickoff for a touchdown and it was basically over for Manning and the Broncos after that.

The NFL's top-scoring defense is now 13-3 in the Super Bowl. The top-scoring offense, meanwhile, is just 10-12.


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