Ranking The Bucs’ Super Bowl LV Defensive Performance

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The Bucs’ Super Bowl LV defensive performance is still fresh on the minds of many. Even if it’s been nearly four months since they were crowned victors over the Chiefs.

We know the drill. Patrick Mahomes and co. dominated the NFL over the past three seasons and were supposed to be the next dynasty. Tampa Bay changed all of that.

So, the question has to be asked: Where does the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV defensive performance rank among the best?

Overview

Tampa Bay’s defensive dominance was one that even the most cockeyed Pewter and Red optimist probably didn’t see coming. After all, Tyreek Hill had to “call for help” for the Bucs defense after he torched the Bucs secondary for 203 yards in the first quarter of their November matchup. And it wasn’t a small sample size. The Kansas City Chiefs offense scored less than 26 points just four times in the regular season.

So the hope coming into Super Bowl LV was to at least contain the explosive Chiefs offense for 60 minutes the way they did for the final 30 of their first matchup. They did so, and in an incredibly emphatic fashion, holding the Chiefs to nine points. Sure, the Chiefs were missing their starting tackles, but even reserve players should have put up some type of resistance to the Bucs edge rushers. They did not, as Patrick Mahomes was under pressure seemingly almost every drop back. The Bucs dropped in coverage as a result of the pressure from their front, kept everything in front of them, and made life impossible for Andy Reid’s offense. It was a masterful defensive game plan from Todd Bowles.

But, having had a few months to digest the performance, where does it rank in terms of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history?  There are a number of factors to consider. The points allowed, the quality of the opponent, and the overall lasting impression of the effort are primary ones.

Here are some candidates to consider, which I’ve listed in relative order, starting with the best:

The Candidates

Super Bowl XLVIII – Seattle 43, Denver 8

This one really stuck out to me as perhaps the best.  Denver went 13-3, with Peyton Manning winning the MVP award. The Legion of Boom handed Manning his most humiliating loss as a pro, and one from which his career began to noticeably decline. A shocking result against a tremendous team. For me, this is the gold standard.

Super Bowl L – Denver 24, Carolina 10

Manning was on the other side of defensive dominance this side. Denver’s aggressive defense swarmed Carolina’s offense, sacking Newton 7 times and forcing 4 turnovers. Given the Panthers went 15-1 and Cam won the MVP, this was an all-time performance.

Super Bowl XXIV – San Francisco 55, Denver 10

The 49ers defense held John Elway and company to 103 yards passing and 167 total yards, sacking the Hall of Fame QB 6 times.  A forgotten performance because of the Niners’ offensive explosion, but certainly one worthy of mention as one of the best statistical performances ever.

Super Bowl XX – Chicago 46, New England 10

The 1985 Bears defense, as everyone knows, was one of the best to ever take the field. It proved it by shutting out its NFC playoff competition 45-0 and destroying the Patriots in the Superdome.  The Bears sacked hapless Steve Grogan and Tony Eason 7 times, forced 6 turnovers, and allowed a paltry 123 yards.  The opponent wasn’t the best, but the dominance was unrivaled.

Super Bowl XXXVII – Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21

I couldn’t leave this gem off the list.  The Bucs defense notched three pick-sixes, five total interceptions, and held the Raiders to almost nothing on the ground.  They also brought Rich Gannon down 5 times.  No defense has scored more points in a Super Bowl. In reality, the Bucs defense only allowed two touchdowns for the game, as the Raiders scored on a blocked punt.

Super Bowl XXXV – Baltimore 34, NY Giants 7

It was a boring game against a not-great New York offense. That said, the Ravens defense pitched a shut out (Giants scored on a kickoff return) and forced Kerry Collins into a 15-39, 112-yard passing line. The performance served as a coronation for what was maybe the greatest defensive season we’ve ever seen. As such, it’s worthy of high praise.

Super Bowl LIII – New England 13, LA Rams 3

This wasn’t flashy. Just 100% workmanlike, with the Patriots forcing Johnny Hekker to punt NINE times. The Rams got into the edge of field goal range only twice, which resulted in a 53-yard field goal and a fourth quarter interception.

Super Bowl XLII New York Giants 17, New England 14

The Giants defense harassed Tom Brady and slowed the seemingly invincible Patriots offense. The Pats tallied only 45 yards on 16 carries and held Brady to 266 yards on 29 of 48 passing, while sacking him 5.0 times.  That’s as good as they could’ve hoped against the then-18-0 machine. Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress made that performance hold up with late-game heroics.

Final Verdict 

It’s hard to put one game ahead of another, because the circumstances and opponents differ so greatly from year to year. That said, the performance by the Tampa Bay defense is worthy of mention among the aforementioned best of all-time. The stats may not back that up, as the Chiefs actually outgained the Bucs 350-340. However, the absurd number of pressures against Mahomes, coupled by the overall job of the linebackers and secondary in coverage was among the most impressive performances I’ve ever witnessed on the game’s biggest stage.  Taking into account the juggernaut the Chiefs are and how talented their roster is, holding them to single-digit points and out of the end zone is an unbelievable feat. As such, I’d include it among the top-5 of all-time.


Where do you rank the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV defensive performance? Let us know in the comment section below!

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