In a quarterback-driven league, the recipe for success is on the defensive side of the ball. Winning Super Bowls is now predicated on two things. First, do you have a quarterback that can make every throw on the field. One who is able to lead his team through adversity and back from defecits. This list of guys does not extend past 5 or 6 in my mind, the elite, upper echelon, signal callers in the NFL today. Those are, in no particluar order, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Peyton and Eli Manning. These are the only ones to have won the Super Bowl in the past 9 years, expect similar results for the next few.
Stopping them is no easy task, as indicated by their hardware. One thing has proved to be too much for some of them to overcome, that is the oppossing teams pass rush, and ability to get them on the ground and in the passing lanes. There are five teams that do this better than the 27 other teams.
In the words of Stephen A. Smith, get ready to tap dance better than the late Gregory Hines.
1. New York Giants - Big Blue Wrecking Crew. They breed pass rushers. It started with Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson, who won Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990. It was then Jessie Armstead and Michael Strahan, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2000. Then, Jerry Reese, the current General Manager, stockpiled pass rushers like no one has done in the history of the league. In 2007, the Giants won Super Bowl XLII with Strahan in his final year along with, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Dave Tollefson on the corners. Inside they had Jay Alford, Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins. In 2011, the Giants did it again, winning Super Bowl XLVI with Tuck, Osi, Mathias Kiwanuka and arguably the most feared defensive lineman in the NFL in Jason Pierre-Paul. Up the middle they had Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph. The Giants current front seven is the best in the NFL, it has just started to get things going in recent weeks and there is no telling what this group can do in the upcoming weeks. JPP is the most freakish defensive end in NFL history and Osi and Tuck have perfercted their crafts. Chris Canty is finally healthy and is 6'7 and 317 pounds of man up the middle. With Kiwanuka added to the mix at times on the edge, this defensive line could be the best in Giants history, and up there with the best the NFL has seen.
2. San Francisco 49ers - Gold Rush. Many call this the best overall defense for two years running. I think it is safe to say they have the most intimading defensive end in the league in Justin Smith, who skips meals and just eats quarterbacks. They also have a not as freakishly as JPP but pretty freakish player in Aldon Smith, who has the kind of motor you can't buy around these parts. Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald are pretty much immovable objects in that anchor that defensive line and create nightmare matchups with offensive guards and tackles. Where they are seperated from the rest of the league is at the linebacker position. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are arguably both top 5 backers in the league and are relentless when it comes to getting through gaps and reading the quarterback. A player that usually goes overlooked is Ahmad Brooks, who would be the best linebacker on most teams, but doesn't sniff the top for the Niners. They hit harder than any defense in the league and it is safe to say that won't change with these guys on defense.
3. Seattle Seahawks - 12 Men. Bruce. That is the name of their best pass rusher. It also happens to be the name of one of the all time greats in Bruce Smith. Their Bruce is as close to Almighty as they come. As a first round, highly speculated draft pick, Bruce Irvin is as raw and talented as they come. The rookie from West Virginia has had his share of up and downs in life and presently, he is up there as one of the most talented down hill pass rushers in the NFL. His ceiling is limitless and he is still learning his techniques. He lines up next to Chris Clemons, who already has 7.0 sacks this season and is primed for many more. Inside, they are led by Brandon Mebane and Jason Jones. Both have shown they are more than just run stoppers and are able to get into the backfield and create havoc. The luxury of the Seahawks ability to rush the passer is their outstanding defensive backs. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are both 6'3 and are two of the more physical corners in the league. They are so good and such lockdown guys, it gives the defensive line more freedom to get after the quarterback.
4. Chicago Bears - Orange Crush. This is the best defensive team that is offensive. They have 14 interceptions, five returned for touchdowns. That doesn't come without putting the pressure on the quarterback and causing errant throws downfield. Their pass rush is lead by Julius Peppers. He makes everyone around him better by drawing countless double teams and drawing the attention of most blocks running backs dish out coming out of the backfield. With that said, guys like Henry Melton, Israel Idonije, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin and Amobi Okoye. That fab five of pash rushers have a combined 14.5 sacks. They are all, for the most part, interchangable parts of a line that is relentless. They are so good that guys like Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher have only 1 sack combined. Their linebackers and secondary get a lot of the recognition for the interceptions and touchdowns, but none of that would be possible without the play of their defensive line.
5. Green Bay Packers - Sack Pack. Their pass rush is what keeps their defense from allowing 35+ points a game. They lead the league in sacks after Week 7 with 24 and have 40 pass deflections. This is largely due in part to Mr. Clay Matthews, who has 9.0 sacks worth a net loss of 63 yards. He is a predator before and after a sack and can play all over the place near the line of scrimmage. Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji, when healthy, lead the Pack up front. Nick Perry, Erik Walden and D.J. Smith complement Matthews and A.J. Hawk at the linbeacker spots. They don't have a dominate defensive end, but do have linebackers who can play up on the line and defensive tackles athletic enough to rush the passer. Their Base 3-4 defense is unique and their personnel is what makes it so good.