Dr. Z's Mailbag

July 04, 2004

Jeremy of Minneapolis is into the history book, the pages of
which I find myself constantly reading as senility approaches.
"Are there any defenses that did not win a Super Bowl that would
compare with the alltime greats?" he asks. "Any that were so good
but had so little help on offense that they were ignored?"

The best defense I ever saw belonged to the 1976 Steelers. Terry
Bradshaw was hurt in the fifth game, so the Steelers rallied
around rookie quarterback Mike Kruczek, and the D allowed just
two touchdowns in the next nine contests, which included five
shutouts. Four Hall of Famers were on that unit. Mel Blount, Joe
Greene (below, center) and Jack Ham (below, left) were all in
their prime, and Jack Lambert was approaching his. Injuries wiped
out Pittsburgh's running back corps in the playoffs, so the
Steelers tried to run a three-tight-end offense against the
Raiders and lost 24-7.

Then there were the '98 Chargers, who finished last in the AFC
West but first in defense in the entire NFL, an unheard-of feat.
"I've never been around anything like it," Pro Bowl strong safety
Rodney Harrison said. "We'd stop 'em, three and out. Then Ryan
Leaf and our offense would give 'em the ball back on the first
play, so we'd go out and hold them, three and out, again. We
never let up." I picked San Diego's defensive coordinator Joe
Pascale as my coach of the year for SI that season.

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COLOR PHOTO: CORBIS (MOUSE) COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER (DR. Z) COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. (STEELERS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)