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.

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.

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