Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #10 1986 Chicago Bears

Welcome to the second installment on the 10 greatest defenses in NFL history. We are off to a rousing start as folks are putting in their reasons for their teams and why the honorable mention units should have made the top ten list. Truth of the matter is all bias has to be removed and the great equalizers lie in the season statistics, play against strongest offenses during their year, and what precedents they set.  If one team is sitting in front of another for having set a precedent, a team with less stature or ranking cannot sit above them on the list.

So now we have to countdown to the single season defenses in NFL history starting with #10.

The best trio of linebackers in the game in Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson.

The best trio of linebackers in the game in Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson.

10. 1986 Chicago Bears –  A season after bludgeoning their way to the NFL title, this group was poised to repeat. If Mike Ditka would have stayed the course and not played Doug Flutie at quarterback who was on the team for four weeks, they would have. Having done so he robbed NFL fans of the greatest 2 year dynasty the NFL had ever seen. They were 15-1 in 1985 then went 14-2 which tied for the best record in the league that year. 29-3 over two seasons?? So why is this group in and the ’86 Giants and ’02 Bucs left off??

  • ’86 Bears – 187 pts allowed *NFL record / 10 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points / 258.1 yds per game (1st) / 62 sacks (2nd) / 31 int. (2nd)
  • ’86 Giants- 236 pts allowed / 5 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points *2 more in playoffs* / 297.3 yds per game (2nd) / 59 sacks (4th / 24 int. (tied 7th)
  • ’02 Bucs – 196 pts allowed / 9 of 16 opponents held to 10 or fewer points / 252.8 yds per game (1st) / 43 sacks (6th) / 31 int. (1st)

Furthermore in compiling these statistics the yardage difference between #1 & #2 in 1986 (258.1 to 297.3) is the second biggest difference since 1970. No way in hell you could say the Giants defense in 1986 was better than Chicago’s…no way.

In a year where two future Hall of Famers Dan Hampton (10 sacks) and Richard Dent (11.5 sacks) didn’t make the Pro Bowl, LB Wilber Marshall, DT Steve McMichael, late SS Dave Duerson, and MLB Mike Singletary did. All this before we bring up FS Gary Fencik. They were 2-1 against Pro Bowl quarterbacks. They split with the Vikings and Tommy Kramer beating him once 23-0.

Then they pasted Boomer Esiason and the NFL’s #1 offense 44-7 on the road. By the way the Bengals were 10-6 that year and the Browns were 12-4 and played for the AFC Championship. The Bears beat them also. In fact they were 4-1 on the year vs top ten offenses.

This group had to drag a Bears offense that had been handicapped by the loss of Jim McMahon through several qbs that couldn’t complete 50% of their passes. The true reason the ’86 Bears didn’t win Super Bowl XXI and the ’86 Giants did was this incident right here.

The defense drug a team with no offensive continuity to the best record in the NFL at 14-2. However since the 2 losses came within the NFC and only 1 of the Giants had, New York got homefield advantage. The Bears fell to the Redskins in the divisional round 27-13 behind 3 turnovers on their own side of the 50 in the 2nd half. Even the 10th best defense in NFL history could save them from that. As for would the ’86 Bears have beaten the ’86 Giants had they played?? The first game of 1987 had both teams healthy and the Bears, without McMahon again, won 34-19. Two of New York’s touchdowns were on defense and special teams. Couple this with the fact the Bears shut out New York in the ’85 playoffs 21-0. The Bears would have taken them as New York couldn’t score on this defense.

The Bears season in microcosm was this game against the Lions:

This defense really should be higher but we’re starting the top ten off with a bang. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

7 thoughts on “Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #10 1986 Chicago Bears

  1. This article is completely misleading. There is no guarantee the 1986 Chicago Bears repeat as champions, even with Jim McMahon at QB. The Chicago Bears lost home playoff games in 1987 and 1988 with Jim McMahon at QB. The 1986 Chicago Bears defense were statistically better than the 1985 Chicago Bears, but didn’t nearly have the bite or intimidation of the 85 Bears defense. The New York Giants were the best football team in 1986. That New York Giants defense held Bill Walsh’s 49ers to 3 points in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. That New York Giants defense held the Redskins scoreless in the 1986 NFC Championship game. That same Redskins team that beat the Chicago Bears 27-13 the previous week in the divisional round of the playoffs. The best chance for the Bears to win another Super Bowl was in 1987, not 1986. Because the 49ers were upset by the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs. Which means the Chicago Bears would have hosted the 1987 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, if they had defeated the Washington Redskins, instead going on the road to face the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, who completely dismantled the Bears 41-0 on Monday Night Football.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The New York Giants were routed 21-0 in the ’85 playoffs and 34-19 to start 1987. Two of those Giant touchdowns were from defense and special teams. The personnel of the Bears and Giants of that time Chicago handles them if they face in 1986. The ’86 Bears werent #1 in 9 categories like the ’85 team…. just gave up less points because they didnt give up garbage points late in games with huge leads like they did in ’85.

      That New York Giant defense gave up way more points in 86 than the Bears and the yardage between the Bears ranked #1 & Giants ranked #2 in defense was the widest in the Super Bowl era. That is talking 16 games. The Giants had the 49ers number and the Beafs had the Giants number.

      Thanks for commenting


  2. Btw, can u send a link to both lists??? I found this because me and a co-worker were arguing about who the bears had the big preseason brawl with we’re they stopped the game and threw a bunch of players out (he said dallas, I knew it was the st loo cardinals)

    Also, if they aren’t on a list already, what are your thoughts on the ’84 defense, that was a badass attacking defense there, got burned from time to time, but I don’t think that sack record will ever be broken!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t wait, Todd Bell, or “Taco Bell” as buddy called him was a tremendous athlete, was always sorry he never got a ring! Pre-85 his INT off thiesman to seal the 1st playoff win I had ever seen was huge! I already read the Payton piece, great job on that man, I shared to my daughters FB, her name is Payton, I couldn’t wait til she was old enough to ask why I named he that, broke out the Payton highlight videos!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Outstanding work! Definitely agree 100% growing up a fan in that eta I remember thinking “wow The bears lit it up today” if tomczak/fuller/flutie threw for 125+ Yds and had less then 2 int in a game! I remember watching the Martin-slam and instantly thinking to myself “we’re done” teams almost played goal line defense the entire game vs bears in 86, no respect or fear of passing game! What people don’t realize is the bears were thin at WR as well, McKinnon went down in camp and missed the while year (back then knee surgery was brutish, Frazier would’ve came back and been a pro-bowl cb if they operated then like they do now on knees!) and the bears trotted out guys that had no business being in the field let alone starting as wr in the nfl! A more amazing stat is with the worst qb a 14-2 team has ever trotted out willie Gault almost had 1,000 yd receiving, mainly because every play he was man-to-man because the defense had 8-9 guys within 5 yd of the line of scrimmage, people say payton was washed up in 86, I think it’s a testament to how great a rb he was that he broke 1,000 yd in 86! Not even touching on the fact Ditka and the OC play book/innovation was as deep as a mud puddle! Ditka coached that team up in 85, but the combo of his arrogance/stupid decisions and no McMahon is why bears didn’t repeat!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #1 1985 Chicago Bears | Taylor Blitz Times

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