Best defensive performance ever in a Super Bowl. Greatest defense since the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Here's a history lesson: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense was superior than this year's Seattle Seahawks in nearly every way. In records. In attitude. And, yes, in the Super Bowl itself.
Ray Lewis was the game's best defensive player that season, running sideline to sideline to make plays. In the middle, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa formed a 700-pound wall inside. On the edges, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett took out quarterbacks on a weekly basis. In the secondary, future Hall of Fame defender Rod Woodson teamed up with two first-round picks, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks, to turn interceptions into touchdowns.
The Ravens posted four shutouts in 2000, the most since the 1976 Steel Curtain defense in Pittsburgh. They allowed the fewest points ever (165) over a 16-game schedule and the fewest rushing yards (60.6 a game), too. Both records still stand today. Before you say that was a different era with different rules, more offenses averaged over 30 points per game in 2000 than in 2013. It was the days of the Greatest Show on Turf.
Beyond the numbers, the Ravens imposed their will on offenses. Teams gave up running the ball against Baltimore, and Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon once refused to go back into the game against the Ravens. Did anyone quit like that against the Seahawks? And, if you thought Richard Sherman's trash-talking was bad, the Ravens would tell teams all week that they were going to shut them out and then did it.
Where the Ravens truly made their mark was in the playoffs. Baltimore's defense gave up one touchdown in four postseason games. The Ravens limited the Broncos, the second-highest scoring team that season (30.3 points), to a field goal. They held the Raiders, the third-highest scoring team (29.9), to a field goal. In 16 quarters in the postseason, the Ravens allowed a total of 16 points. In comparison, the Seahawks gave up five touchdowns a total of 40 points in three playoff games.
The best argument for the Seahawks is their Super Bowl performance. Seattle secured its place in NFL history by quieting Peyton Manning and the Broncos' high-flying offense. But, let's be honest, Manning has never been Manning in any of his three Super Bowl appearances. So, was this the Seahawks defense or simply Manning failing to step up in a big game again?
The Ravens' performance in the Super Bowl was better, and the numbers back it up. They held the New York Giants to 152 yards (compared to 306 allowed by Seattle). Baltimore picked off four passes, returning one for a touchdown. The Ravens are one of three teams in Super Bowl history not to allow an offense score a point and the only one since the Pittsburgh Steelers did it January 1975. The only points scored against the Ravens in their 34-7 win over the Giants came off a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Some downgrade the Ravens' accomplishments because it was against Kerry Collins. The Giants, though, were coming off an NFC Championship Game in which they scored 41 points. If you're going to hold Collins against the Ravens, you have to credit them for winning with Trent Dilfer as their quarterback. The best way to show the Ravens' dominance on defense is this: Baltimore won a Super Bowl despite Dilfer completing less than half of his passes -- 47.9 percent, to be exact -- in the playoffs.
None of this should take away from what the Seahawks achieved. Seattle has a great defense. It was the best defense of the season, without question. But the Ravens can make the argument for having the best defense of all-time and the Seahawks simply can't.