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Ranking the Bears historically great defenses

We check in on a recent defensive ranking from Football Perspective.

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears

There are several categories to rank an all-time great defense; points allowed, yards allowed, sacks, turnovers, DVOA, just to name a few, but a recent string of Tweets from Football Perspective (@fbgchase) has a new one I found interesting.

They took the ratio of touchdowns allowed, to punts forced plus turnovers gained and several Chicago Bears’ defenses landed on the list. In their all-time list, the Bears ended up 6th, 20th, and 26th, but in the post 1978 list, Chicago’s defenses were 1st, 7th, 9th, 15th, 34th, 41st, and 49th.

Here are where those Bears’ defenses ranked.


The ‘86 defense, which still featured most of the Super Bowl cast of characters, were led by outside linebacker Wilber Marshall who made his first All-Pro appearance with 5.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 interceptions, and 3 fumble recoveries. Defensive ends Richard Dent and Dan Hampton combined for 21.5 of the teams 62 total sacks.


Chicago’s last NFL Championship team featured four All-Pros on defense; defensive end Doug Atkins, outside linebacker Joe Fortunato, and safeties Rosey Taylor and Richie Petitbon. Taylor tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 9, and Petitbon tied for 2nd with 8, and they also got 6 picks each from corners Dave Whitsell and Bennie McRae.


This was the year the Bears went 13-3 with Brian Urlacher roaming sideline to sideline behind behemoth defensive tackles Keith Traylor and Ted Washington. Urlacher tied a team record by returning a fumble recovery 101 yards, but it was the 2 walk-off interception return TDs from Mike Brown that everyone remembers about this season.


Year two of the Lovie Smith era had the Bears atop the division for the first time since ‘01 and saw Urlacher make his third All-Pro team as he took to Lovie’s Tampa 2 defense. Charles Tillman was robbed of what should have been a Pro Bowl appearance with 5 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, and 96 tackles. Nathan Vasher chalked up 8 interceptions of his own and Adewale Ogunleye had 10 sacks.


Their Super Bowl winning 46 Defense regularly scared offenses into making mistakes, with Dent’s 17 sacks leading the NFL. Otis Wilson chipped in with 10.5 sacks as the team went on to compile 64 in total. Leslie Frazier led the team with 6 interceptions.


The NFC Champion Bears were led by Urlacher’s 142 tackles, Lance Briggs’ 4 forced fumbled, Mark Anderson’s 12 sacks (still their rookie record), and 5 interceptions apiece from Ricky Manning and “Peanut” Tillman. And who knows if a healthy Tommie Harris at defensive tackle makes a difference in the Super Bowl.


Dent’s career high 17.5 sacks helped the Bears to 72 total on the season, which is still the all-time NFL record. Hampton and Steve McMichael also had double digit sacks in 1994. Gary Fencik and Frazier each had 5 picks.


It wasn’t necessarily the last stand of the famed 80’s Bears’ defensive group, but they allowed the fewest points in the NFL and allowed the 2nd fewest yards. Vestee Jackson had a career high 8 interceptions, Maurice Douglass had 3 fumble recoveries, and Mongo, Danimal and the Sackman combined for 31.5 sacks.

We’ve been running through the history of the Bears on a decade by decade basis on our podcast channel, so if you haven’t heard those, check them out right here.