1991 Philadelphia Eagles – Greatest Defense of All Time?

As a Steelers fan, this statement means a lot coming from me:

The 1991 Philadelphia Eagles have the greatest defense of all time.

It’s true. They just don’t get the credit because they went 10-6 and didn’t make the playoffs. But that’s no fault of their own. The offense was just horrible to watch. That’s no exaggeration either, starting QB Randall Cunningham went down week 1 and was lost for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. The offense went downhill from there:

• Ranked 25th in total YPG (268.9)

• Ranked 28th rush yard per carry (3.1), 21st in total rush yards (1,396) and 22nd in rushing touchdowns (8)
• 20th in passing yards per game (181.6), 12th in passing touchdowns (17), 2nd in thrown interceptions (27) and tied for 5th in sacks given up (45)

*There was only 28 teams in the league in 1991

So it goes without saying that defense is the reason why this team managed to win 10 games. The Eagles defense was legendary in 1991. The front four combined for 39.5 sacks alone, with Reggie White (despite the double/triple teams) still managed 15 of those sacks, Clyde Simmons totaled 13, Jerome Brown had 9 and Mike Golic added 2.5 sacks. Overall, the defense led the league with 55 total sacks. The defense forced a league leading 48 turnovers, 26 coming from interceptions and 22 from fumble recoveries. OLB Seth Joyner led the league with 4 fumble recoveries and CB Eric Allen tied for second in the league with 5 interceptions. Overall:

• 24th in points allowed (251) and 24th in PPG (15.2)
• 28th in yards allowed per game (221.8)
• 28th in passing yards allowed (2,413), 28th in completion percentage (44.1%), 28th in passing yards per game (150.8)
• 28th in rushing yards allowed (1,136), 28th in yards per rush (3.0), 28th in rushing yards per game (71) and tied for 27th in league in rushing touchdowns allowed (4)
(Defensive stats were organized on NFL.com from greatest to least so it’s okay to be last here)

Eagles Quarterbacks In 1991

Former Bears Super Bowl winning QB Jim McMahon

Jeff Kemp started 2 games and was bad

Brad Goebel was the worst. No touchdowns and 6 picks

Another fact that has to make the Eagles the number 1 Defense is that the team had the 26th ranked offense and 21st ranked rushing attack that year, to go with starting 5 different quarterbacks throughout the season. Combine that with strength of schedule and you have to seriously consider them as the Number One Defense. They faced off against five of the top ten scoring offenses (PPG/Total Points; Washington, Houston, San Francisco, Dallas and New Orleans) going 3-4 in these contest.

The Eagles gave up 300 yards once in 1991.

300 TOTAL yards.

That’s insane.

Despite starting 3-1, they went winless in October when Jim McMahon (the replacement to already injured Randall Cunningham) was sidelined due to injury sustained during a Week 5 matchup with the Redskins. Despite going 7-1 in the second half of the season, it wasn’t enough. If the Eagles had a better offense they definitely would’ve at least made the NFC Championship. Division rival Washington was the shit that season en route to a Super Bowl title (14-2, with one loss coming from the Eagles). The leading rush for Eagles was James Joseph with 440 yards.

Let that sink in….

On Monday Night Football, the Eagles manhandled the Oilers, forcing six fumbles while holding the high powered Houston offense to 21 yards rushing and just six points. “House of Pain” game against the Houston Oilers. They fucked them boys up, to the point the receivers refused to go across the middle after seeing teammate Ernest Givens catch the ball and get to creamed – his facemask broke and he left the game with a broken nose. This was the most memorable game of the season for Philly without a doubt.

When you think of the greatest defenses of all time – the ’72 Dolphins, ’76/’08 Steelers, ’85 Bears, ’00 Ravens and ’02 Bucs – they come to mind because they all won a Super Bowl. Well, I’m here to tell you the ’91 Eagles were better. FootballOutsiders rank them as the #1 defense of all time in terms of DVOA (which adjust numbers based off the quality of opponent), the Eagles defense had a -42.4% defensive DVOA (DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative). The Eagles overall were one of the most balanced defensive teams in NFL history. Check this out for a better explanation.


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