Top 10 Most Clutch Defensive Performances in NFL History

Jeff Shull@Jeff_ShullAnalyst IOctober 4, 2010

Top 10 Most Clutch Defensive Performances in NFL History

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    OK, so there really was nothing at stake in the game the other night, but the performance by the New York Giants defense got me thinking of the great defensive performances of all time.

    Even Osi Umenyiora was thinking about it when asked if he remember a dominant performance similar to last night's game. Simply put, "Yeah, the Super Bowl."

    This list will focus on great defensive performances in the most clutch of situations, i.e. the playoffs and Super Bowl.

    Many defenses have been dominant over time, but few have electrified in the best of situations like those on this list.

    Expect some familiar faces and feel free to comment below on any I left out, because there was sure to be more than just 10.

10. 2004 Divisional Round: Patriots Laugh at Peyton's No. 1 Offense.

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    Peyton Manning threw for 49 TDs? Big deal. The Colts averaged 32.6 points per game? Still not scared.

    These were the responses when the Patriots defense was faced with the task of taking down Manning and the infamous pass attack of the Colts.

    As they had done for so many seasons now, the Patriots defense stepped up big time and frustrated Manning all game long.

    The Colts scored fewer than 20 points in a game only once the entire season, and that came when they rested their starters in the second half of the final game of the season. They only put up three points in this game.

    Not only could they spread the ball all over the field through the air, but they also had Edgerrin James who rushed for over 1,500 yards.

    They were a well-oiled machine. Too bad they couldn't work out the kinks against the Pats.

9. 1989 NFC Championship Game: Ronnie Lott and Company Batter The Rams

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    In a battle between divisional foes, the San Francisco 49ers completely destroyed the Los Angeles Rams in one of the most lopsided victories in the history of the NFC Championship.

    They not only dominated on the scoreboard (30-3), but the box score as well.

    They held the Rams to 156 yards of offense and forced three turnovers, completely harassing Rams QB Jim Everett in the process. He threw three interceptions, and the league's second-ranked scoring offense failed miserably.

    Everett became infamous for the play depicted in the video by going down without even being touched by a 49er player. He was so scared of the pass rush that he anticipated being hit, a classic case of hearing footsteps.

8. 1970 Divisional Playoffs: Dallas Cowboys Win The Game Of No Offense

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    In one of the most boring games of all time, the Dallas Cowboys got the better of the Detroit Lions in the lowest scoring game in playoff history in the modern era.

    No offense showed up in this game, but the Cowboys mustered up enough points to come away with the 5-0 victory. Ironically, the safety in the game came on a clutch goal line stop by the Lions.

    The Lions had the second highest scoring offense in the league that year, so to shut them out was a tall order. It's safe to say the Cowboys rose to the challenge.

7. Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots Upset Greatest Show On Turf

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    Led by a terrific performance by Ty Law, the Patriots defense was more opportunistic than dominant, but the defensive performance was spectacular nonetheless.

    The Rams from 1999-2001 were possibly the greatest offense in NFL History, but Bill Belichick had a great defensive game plan (and maybe a little help from Spygate) and forced Kurt Warner out of his comfort zone.

    The Rams put up plenty of yards but could not put points on the board when it mattered, and the Patriots won a thriller 20-17.

6. 2000 NFC Championship: Giants Embarrass Vikings So-Called High-Octane Offense

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    Couldn't find a suitable video. Pictured is Jesse Armstead, soul and leader of the 2000 New York Giants Defense

    The Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss connection was supposed to put an end to the Giants playoff run of dominating teams with their defense.

    Unfortunately the Giants never got that memo.

    In the most lopsided victory in the history of the NFC Championship, the Giants defense demolished the Vikings offense, holding them to 114 yards of total offense while forcing five turnovers and sacking Culpepper four times.

    Culpepper was held to 78 yards passing and three interceptions, while Moss only had two receptions for 18 yards.

    Had the Giants not backed off in the second half, this could have gone down as the biggest playoff victory ever, as they had a 34-0 lead at halftime, out-gaining the Vikings 386-45 in the process.

    Randy Moss said it best: "I was just talking to Daunte, and 41-to-doughnut, I think that's the worst defeat I've ever been in my life."

5. Super Bowl VI: Dallas Cowboys Dominate Bob Griese and Larry Csonka

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    The 1971 Miami Dolphins didn't have the greatest offense ever, but they had a Hall of Famer at both the quarterback and running back positions, which apparently didn't seem to bother the Cowboys defense.

    Led by Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, the Cowboys defense shut down Larry Csonka and company and set the Super Bowl record for yards allowed with 185 which has since been broken.

    They still remain the only defense to prevent their opponent from scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

4. Super Bowl IX: Steel Curtain Shuts Down Fran Tarkenton and The Vikings

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    First off I just want to apologize for the people who've read this already and did not see this on here, it completely missed my glance somehow. I researched for four hours while writing this looking at every single playoff game from Super Bowl I to the present, I must have overlooked it.

    The Steel Curtain defense is one of the best ever and the best to most people. They completely bottled up the fifth ranked scoring offense in the regular season. They made Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton look confused at times and held them to a new Super Bowl low of 119 total yards.

3. Super Bowl III: Jets Defense Backs Up Joe Namath Guarantee

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    The Jets heard all the talk leading up to the game that the powerful Baltimore Colts offense was supposed to walk all over the inferior Jets from the AFL.

    The NFL was supposed to be a vastly superior league, yet the Jets defense completely shut down the Colts offense, holding them to seven points in what is still statistically the biggest upset in Super Bowl history in terms of the Las Vegas line.

2. Super Bowl XLII: Big Blue Wrecking Crew Owns Tom Brady and Patriots

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    In technically the second-best upset in Super Bowl history, but considered the most shocking upset of all time, the New York Giants shut down the greatest scoring offense in NFL history.

    Tom Brady and the Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game that year, and had already torched the Giants defense for 38 points in the season finale.

    But Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan knew prior to the game that they had to play the best game of their lives and hit Brady all game for them to win, and they did just that.

    They sacked Brady five times and held the high-powered offense to 14 points in the 17-14 victory.

1. 1985 Chicago Bears Entire Playoff Run

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    The 1985 Bears turned in possibly the greatest playoff run in terms of defense ever. They allowed 10 points in three games, all of which came in the Super Bowl blow out of the New England Patriots.

    The dominance included two shutouts, one defensive score in each game, and a safety. It also included each and every quarterback running for their respective lives.

    The Bears dominated every single team on defense except Dan Marino's Dolphins in route to an 18-1 finish as Super Bowl champs, as well as considered one of, if not the best team in NFL history.