The Denver Broncos won Superbowl 50 despite bad offense.
Looking back at some teams that won Superbowls with limited offensive production, we come across the 2015 Denver Broncos, 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 New York Giants, 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2001 Baltimore Ravens, and many more.
The scales between those teams and the historical ’85 Chicago Bears team are massively expanded. However, the sport has changed a lot between 1985 and 2015 and even between 2015 to now. All of those defenses have a few important things in common though.
You need a defensive leader. Someone who the rest of the defense will fight tooth and nail to the whistle for. They don’t have to be the best player but the need to be able to motivate and keep the passion riding high. Players like DeMarcus Ware. Ware was never just inside his own huddle in practice. He was often found on the other side of the ball talking to offensive linemen, telling them how to stop his approach or other players on the team.
You need a high motor guy who is just relentless like Von Miller. The determined wild animal who is always trying to make a play. Miller has the juice. He has double-digit sack production in every season except for 2019 and 2013. Oddly, enough he scored a 60-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery the year he is injury. Such an animal.
You need a ballhawk. Some have been safties like Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed. In Denver’s case, it was cornerback Aqib Talib. While he only intercepted three passes that season, two of them were returned to the house. Talib had 123 yards of interception returns. Talib also had 13 passes defended. Not all ballhawks get six or seven interceptions. Just being around the ball is enough.
If building an elite defense was as easy as having those three players every defense would generally be good. Those are just the key components. The role players have to be just as good as the elite talent.
Players like a secondary pass rusher, top-end run defender, top-end interior pass rusher, a joker linebacker and a secondary enforcer. Enforcer/joker, being someone who makes a receiver fear going over the middle to catch a pass and who can come flying in to make tackles for loss in various situations.
The point is, the defense can still rule the day. It is just harder to build and much harder to sustain. However, if it is done correctly, it is okay that the offense is imited a bit. The key to building that type of defense and sustaining it is when you feel you have your key players in place and you feel your defensive roster is set.
Could the 2020 Chicago Bears be that team? With Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Eddie Goldman, Akeim Hicks, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, and Robert Quinn the Bears are close. Now what young talent is going to step up and become the enforcer? Will they stay healthy to show off the talent this defense has? If they can answer those questions, we may be in for another special season this year.