Nobody gave the New England Patriots a chance when the Atlanta Falcons scored to extend their lead in Super Bowl 51 to 25 points midway through the third quarter.
It wasn’t just the size of the deficit that proved problematic for Bill Belichick’s team, or the time left on the clock. It was the fact that they needed to stop a Falcons offence that had been unstoppable for the entire season.
Atlanta averaged a remarkable 33.75 points per game in the regular season. That number increased to 36 points per game in the postseason.
Matt Ryan took his game to another level in 2016. The signal caller finished with 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in the regular season.
The old adage suggests that while offence wins matches, it’s the defence that wins championships.
The Denver Broncos provided the best example of that in 2015. A restricted Peyton Manning, who had been benched earlier in the season, was helped by a defence that was no.1 in total defence, no.1 in pass defence, no.1 in sacks, no. 3 against the run, no. 4 in scoring and no. 3 in defensive touchdowns.
It’s no wonder many regard the Broncos’ defence of 2015 as one of the greatest in NFL history.
Manning completed 55.4 per cent of his throws in the postseason. He threw for 539 yards in three playoff matches - an average of less than 180 yards per contest.
Thankfully for the retired QB, he had Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib wreaking havoc on defence.
Does defence win championships?
The winners of the Super Bowl over the past 10 year decade helps to settle one of the NFL’s biggest debates: does the defence really win championships?
Taking into consideration every winner’s offensive yards and points per game and their defence yards and points per game, you can begin to see just how important a stingy defence is to a successful football team.
The stats are taken from the regular season as it compares the team’s performance compared to the other 31 NFL teams.
On the offensive side of the ball, the New Orleans side of 2009 and the Patriots’ teams of 2014 and 2016 produced impressive figures.
On defence, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, in 2008 and 2013, both hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with the no.1 defence in the league.
The Patriots conceded the fewest number of points last season, an average of 15.6 per game, while the Broncos’ D of 2015 will be spoken about for years to come.
One argument to the idea that defence doesn’t win champions is by the Giants team of 2011.
They conceded 25 points per game in the regular season and entered the play-offs with a 9-7 record.
But New York’s defence stepped it up in the play-offs, conceding an average of 14 points in each of their matches and holding a Patriots offence that had scored 32.1 points per game in the regular season to 17 points in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons were about to dispel the idea that defence wins titles in Houston on February 5.
But New England’s defence didn’t concede a single point in the final quarter.
Tom Brady got the credit, which he completely deserved, but the defence did something no other team had managed in the 2016 season.
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