Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History: #5 1991 Philadelphia Eagles

A recurring theme that seems to be running through these greatest defenses were they had to carry anemic, inefficient offenses through the season. One such incident took place when the Philadelphia Eagles lost the 1990 NFL MVP Runner Up Randall Cunningham in the first week 1991. All appeared to be lost as they attempted to go on without their #1 weapon. This defense turned in one of the last truly great performances finishing #1 against the run, #1 against the pass, and obviously #1 overall.

When you carry a team that played five quarterbacks during the season, you’ve done something. We’re sure you remember that renowned NFL quarterback Brad Goebel or Pat Ryan, right?? Who?? Brad Goebel not Stan Gable…that’s a fictitious character from Revenge Of the Nerds.

As for real quarterbacks they had two games against the Redskins Mark Rypien, that year’s Super Bowl MVP. Two more against Hall of Famer Troy Aikman then one against Steve Young and Warren Moon. Also Hall of Fame members. All but Young made the Pro Bowl in 1991. They went 3-3 against them and held Young’s 49ers (#3 offensively) and Aikman’s Cowboys (#9 offensively) to less than 100 yards passing in two complete games that year.

Remember, Aikman and Young went on to face each other in 3 consecutive NFC Championships starting the following year and won the next four Super Bowls.

They faced 6 top 10 offenses going 3-3 against them. Defensively they held 6 opponents to 10 points or fewer. Two of those games were against top ten offenses as we mentioned earlier. Counting match-ups with divisional foes as individual games, 8 times they held their opposition to their lowest offensive output for the season.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

1991 Pro Bowl members of the Eagles defense.

Half the defense made the Pro Bowl starting with the late Reggie White, the late Jerome Brown, and Clyde Simmons from the defensive line. These three accounted for 37 of the Eagle’s 55 sacks. Those 3 alone had just 7 sacks fewer than the 2013 NFL champion Seahawks had as a team. OLB Seth Joyner (110 tck / 6.5 sacks / 6 ff /3 ints) and CB Eric Allen who picked off 5.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn't make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

The only reason SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl was his reputation.

Amazingly the late SS Andre Waters didn’t make the Pro Bowl even though he had 156 tackles. It was he and FS Wes Hopkins that sent the early message in their signature game against the Oilers. Did you know starting the very next week, when others used their 13-6 destruction against Houston as a blueprint, stats diminished for the Run & Shoot?? This performance was the impetus for the abolition of the Run & Shoot as a complete offensive approach in the NFL.

In winning 7 of their last 8 attempting to make the playoffs, the quarterback rating allowed was around 40.0. For the season, 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions would get a quarterback cut and ripped by NFL Network or ESPN shows. Well this was the passing given up by the 91′ Eagles all year.

Or think of it like this: Look at the ’91 Eagles performance against 6 top 10 offenses and 4 HOF QBs. Compare those stats to Geno Smith who was the worst rated QB last year:

  • Geno Smith – 247 of 443 (55.8%) 3,046 yds 12tds 21 ints
  • ’91 Eagles – 206 of 467 (44.1%) for 2,807 yards 16 TDs and 26 interceptions

One of the best in history and #5 on The Chancellor of Football’s list.apicofme3.

Dedicated to the memories of: Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Andre Waters, Wes Hopkins, Mike Pitts, Buddy Ryan, and Bud Carson.

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One thought on “Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History: #5 1991 Philadelphia Eagles

  1. Great article along with another great reminder of this Classic unit! Yes, a very Historically excellent defense! Ironically peaking after Buddy was now gone. But if you must replace him, I’d think a BUD CARSON would do just fine!

    Two of the better non-playoff teams in NFL history were both in the same season as well as in the same conference! In the first year of the Steve Young era (Montana out, and never to properly suit up for them again ’92 finale notwithstanding; no more Ronnie Lott, no more Roger Craig, etc), San Fran also started slow but would rally to a 10-6 all-in-vain non-playoff finish as the Eagles did! And this was no longer 5 teams getting in per-conference as was still the case two years earlier; but now SIX yet both these otherwise strong teams miss out in ’91!

    Yes, losing #12 was clearly what did it for the Birds!! But I feel a simple McMahon being healthy and able to play just a few more games would have gotten them in the playoffs. They only needed to win just one more than they did! But even if RANDALL never goes down, and even if that means winning an extra two or even three games – it doesn’t get them that division title over juggernaut Washington who was 14-1 going into that meaningless finale at the Vet. They still would have been stuck at wild card if, however, a home (4th-seed) wild card. If they win that home 1st-rounder, whomever the opponent would be (Chicago? DALLAS?), next up would be at 2nd-seed 12-4 Detroit. If they win that one, then it’d be the best that it’d get for NO ONE at all was getting by Washington that year! Same if San Fran would have made it!

    But not just ’91 Washington, but any true championship-caliber team, balanced and built to win the Super Bowl, would have kept them out in such an event. As talented and as much a play-maker #12 was, and as admirable a ‘Swiss-army-knife’ all-purpose RB (true-blue football player) Keith Byars was, the Eagles offense strategy as a whole was still suspect under Kotite and quite archaic as it was while Buddy was there. Not too much of an OL, and did Randall ever even have a QB-coach? “Just make five big plays and the D will take care of the rest”, as Buddy would say while there, was simply not a formula for winning a Super Bowl.

    Acquiring main-purpose RB, Herschel Walker, for the ’92 campaign offered some hope. But now Jerome Brown was sadly gone. And yet another year it was into the Kotite era…but with Randall now back in the fold, and Reggie still there for just one more year, they were able to breathe one last breath of contention and excitement among fans with a Super Bowl-lookin’ 4-0 start!

    They beat the Saints in the opener after honoring Jerome pre-game at the Vet. Two weeks later they give Elway and the Broncos a brutal 30-0 beating to make it 3-0! Both they and Dallas, also 3-0, had a bye week before meeting in a showdown at the Vet on MNF to close out Week #5. They end up dominating Jimmy’s Boys, make the cover of SI for it, and then (despite actually still making the playoffs anyway, and actually winning a game – against ANOTHER team that struggled winning in the playoffs – yes, SOMEONE had to win) that was that for ‘Gang Green’! Jimmy Johnson nor his team even seemed baffled by the blowout defeat; and against a rival they were still trying to overcome. “On schedule” he felt all was. And he was right for it’d be the final growing pain of the Dynasty to now come! But, hey, for what its worth Buddy WAS 4-0 vs Jimmy!

    ‘Buddy Ball’ era in Philly…an exciting time, never a boring moment! That ’88 season was quite a fun slow-but-sure rally to the NFC East title – sweeping Parcells’ Giants on the way, as they would in ’89 as well! They “arrived” (as a playoff team, at least)!

    But I feel their best chance at actually winning-it-all would have been had they gotten thru the “Fog” and into Candlestick for the NFC Championship. No, I don’t think they actually win, but simply they being the young, cocky upstart team under Buddy that “didn’t know” they were the underdogs gives them their best shot in that very ’88 post-season. Maybe the game turns out just like the following year’s Classic Week #3 showdown! Or maybe San Fran blows them up as they did da 12-4 Bears at bitter Soldier Field as what actually did happen!

    Either way, sometime into the following high-hopes ’89 campaign (2-2 start? 6-4 start? not wrapping up the division despite sweeping Giants?), you got the gist the league’s elite were now “ready” for them. Or at least come post-season time as would be the case. But it was “fun” for most Philly-fans to this day revere Buddy more than they do Andy Reed who made a Super Bowl along with numerous conference championship game berths.

    Liked by 1 person

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