PHOENIX – Kevin Williams is not a defensive football historian. But the former Viking turned current Seahawk believes he knows a guy with some perspective.
“You should talk to Mike Bennett,” said Seattle’s starting nose tackle, referring to one of its starting defensive ends. “He always tells us we’re the No. 1 defense of all time. He’s the guy who reads a lot, studies all those old defenses. He knows all the numbers and stuff like that. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, too.”
If introvert Marshawn Lynch had an extrovert alter ego not named Richard Sherman, it would be Michael Bennett. The six-year veteran, now in the second year of his second stint with the Seahawks, is eloquent in his belief that we’re witnessing the greatest defensive football in the 95-year history of the NFL.
Five minutes after Seattle’s one-hour media session ended Wednesday, Bennett still had his feet propped on a table at the Arizona Grand Hotel when he was asked if that included the — gasp! — 1985 Chicago Bears.
“Yeah, I think it’s better than the ’85 Bears because it’s a whole different type of football,” Bennett said. “I think every generation has a certain type of football.
“Look at some guys who played in the ’20s who rushed the ball pretty well. They wouldn’t have rushed well now because there are more black people playing now than there was back in the ’20s. We’re playing the best of our era right now. And that’s all that really matters.”
The “46” defense of the ’85 Bears is revered, particularly by people too young to remember Pittsburgh’s ’76 “Steel Curtain” or Minnesota’s ’69 to ’71 “Purple People Eaters,” to name just a few defenses that often get overshadowed by Da Bears.
And some of us who remember those teams never saw the 1953-57 Browns. Or the 1929 Packers, the 1927 Giants or the 1926 Pottsville Maroons.
“All I know is we got a darn good defense,” Williams said. “If you look top to bottom, we’ve proven we’re solid at every position. That’s tough to do around this league.”
Seattle already can make a case for playing the best defense in NFL history. With a defensively dominant victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, they very well could win that argument for decades to come.
“That’ll be for you guys [media] to decide,” Bennett said.
Or maybe the case will be too overwhelming to dismiss. First, a victory over the Patriots would mark the ninth time a team has won back-to-back Super Bowls. It also would give Seattle’s defense a two-year stretch in which it beat Peyton Manning (43-8) and Brady on the grandest stage during the pass-happiest era the league has ever seen. Not to mention they also will have beaten Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in the past two postseasons.
“Hey, we have the No. 1 [scoring] defense the last three years,” Bennett said. “And we’re going to keep doing the same exact things. We’re going to keep penetrating, making big hits, getting interceptions, keep sacking and playing the game the way football is supposed to be played.”
Astute drafting, particularly in the later rounds, by General Manager John Schneider has brought the Seahawks to the table of history. An aggressive, physical confidence, the ability to manage the salary cap and adding pieces such as Bennett in 2013 and Williams this season has Seattle on the verge of sitting at the head of that table.
But first let’s not dismiss earlier eras that included teams such as:
• The 2000 Ravens, who still hold the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165).
• The 1990 Giants. They allowed 13.2 points per game and held Joe Montana and Jim Kelly to a total of 32 points in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XXV.
• The 1985 Bears. They held seven opponents to fewer than 10 points and then blew through the postseason with victories of 21-0, 24-0 and 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.
• The 1976 Steelers. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls in six seasons, but ’76 wasn’t one of them. But the Steelers did post a modern era-record five shutouts that season.
• The 1969 Vikings. They won the NFL Championship before losing in the Super Bowl. They allowed only 9.5 points per game, second-best ever, while holding opposing QBs to a 40.4 passer rating. The 1970 Vikings gave up 10.2 points per game; the 1971 Vikings allowed 9.9.
• The 1953 to ’57 Browns. They led the league in scoring defense five consecutive years, which is still a record.
• The 1926 Maroons and 1927 Giants. All they did was post a record 10 shutouts during their respective seasons.
Other defenses could be added to this list. Seattle, for example, led the league in scoring defense in 2012 (15.3), 2013 (14.4) and 2014 (15.9).
Bennett was told that Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount had said the Seahawks defense “wasn’t immortal.” That’s about as close to trash-talking as a Patriot gets.
“I know we’re not immortal,” Bennett said. “If that was the case, I’d go jump off a bridge right now. But we don’t care what they say.”
But you do think you have the greatest defense of all time, eh, Mike?
“Of course I do,” he said. “I also think I’m the greatest lover of all time. If you ask my wife, it’s just my opinion.”
Mark Craig email@example.com