- By D. Orlando Ledbetter The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
With the exception of the 2007 Giants, Super Bowl champions have had similar characteristics.
A total of 35 of the Super Bowl winners had been ranked in the top 10 in scoring, points allowed on defense and points scored on offense.
A total of 16 teams have had at least one of their units ranked in the top in either defense points allowed or points scored.
Those 2007 Giants, who slipped into the playoffs on the last week of the regular season, were ranked 17th in defensive points allowed and 14th in scoring. They upset the undefeated Patriots and that victory was rated as the second-greatest upset in Super Bowl history in The Ultimate Super Bowl Book by Bob McGinn. (The legendary Jets’ win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III was rated as the greatest.)
“With 18 victories in hand, the Patriots needed one more for a perfect season and claim to the title of greatest team ever,” McGinn wrote. “Together with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Tom Brady had rewritten the NFL record books – but the Giants weren’t awestruck. Starting fast and finishing strong, the Giants handed Bill Belichick his most disappointing defeat.”
Last season, the Super Bowl champion Eagles were ranked fourth in points allowed and third in point scored.
In 2016, the Patriots, who defeated the Falcons 34-28 in overtime in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, were ranked first in points allowed and third in points scored. The Falcons were the league’s top scoring offense, but it’s young defense, which played a role in the collapse, was ranked 27th in points allowed.
If the Falcons would have held on, they would have been the lowest ranked scoring defense to win a Super Bowl. Only three teams have won a Super Bowl with a defense ranked in the 20s. The 2011 Giants were ranked 25th, the 2006 Colts were ranked 23rd and the 2009 Saints were ranked 20th in points allowed.
All of the defensive outliers reside in the NFL’s passing era, after several contact rules were modified to boost scoring and passing.
In Super Bowl 50, the Broncos relied on their defense, which was ranked fourth in points allowed to carry their 19th-ranked offense, which needed some timely passing by an aged Peyton Manning to defeat the Panthers.
From the old defense wins championships department, a total of 10 of 52 Super Bowl champions had the No. 1 ranked defense in total yards allowed.
The group includes the Dolphins (1972), Steelers (1974), Cowboys (1977), Bears (1985), Cowboys (1992), Packers (1996), Buccaneers (2002), Steelers (2008), Seahawks (2013) and Broncos (2015).
The lowest-ranked defense in total yards allowed was the 2011 Giants, who ranked 27th. The Falcons’ 2016 Super Bowl defense was ranked 25th in yards allowed.
The top-ranked defense in yards allowed has reached the Super Bowl 14 times and is 10-4.
The top-ranked offense in yards allowed has won 8 of 52 Super Bowls. The 2008 Steelers were the lowest ranked offense in total yards (22nd) to win.
The top-ranked offense in total yards has reached the Super Bowl 14 times and is 8-6.
A pass rush is important as seen in Super Bowl LII when the Eagles needed a sack from Brandon Graham of Brady to help secure the franchises first Super Bowl title. A total of 50 of 52 Super Bowl winners have had at least 30 sacks in a season.
The last five Super Bowl winners fit that profile: Eagles (38 sacks), 2016 Patriots (34), 2015 Broncos (52, first in the league), 2014 Patriots (40) and 2013 Seahawks (44).
The most sacks by a Super Bowl champion were the 1985 Bears with 64. The fewest sacks by a Super Bowl champion are the 2006 Colts with just 25.
The Falcons believe that the turnover-ratio is a key factor. That certainly was the case when the 2009 Saints won the Super Bowl. They led the league in turnover margin, while the defense was ranked 20th in points allowed. A key play in their Super Bowl win came when cornerback Tracey Porter jumped a route and intercepted a Manning pass.
“Dan has mentioned time again, how important that we win the turnover battle,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “That is huge.”
The 2016 Patriots became the first team to win a Super Bowl with less than 25 takeaways. They had 23, but were plus-12 and finished third overall. Only seven Super Bowl winners have ever finished with a negative number in the turnover category, with the 2015 Broncos (minus-4, ranked 19th) being the last one.
The 2017 Eagles were plus-11 and ranked fourth. The 2014 Patriots were plus-12 and ranked second. The 2013 Seahawks, who were coordinated by Quinn, were plus-20 and ranked first.
“I know that it may seem minimal and basic to a lot of people, but I think in the end, this game, both Dan and I both believe, take care of the fundamentals,” Dimitroff said. “Take care of what truly needs to be done i.e. getting the ball in our possession and I think we have a fighting chance to be very, very successful.”