2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense ranked as one of best ever

Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

2002 was truly an unforgettable year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their fans; their defense will always be remembered as one of the best in NFL history.

In a recently released article by Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport, the Super Bowl winning 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were ranked as one of the best defenses in NFL history, coming in at fifth on the list. Only the 1985 Chicago Bears, 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2000 Baltimore Ravens, and 1971 Minnesota Vikings were ranked above the 2002 Bucs.

During their Super Bowl run led by current Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers defense was anchored by Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, pass rushers Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp, and a secondary consisting of current San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, Ronde Barber, and Dexter Jackson. In fact, top-five all-time may be too low for this Tampa Bay defense.

"“Some of these units did more than just shut down opponents and win games. They changed the way defense is played in the NFL. Monte Kiffin’s ‘Tampa 2’ Buccaneers had such a unit, which used zone concepts in the passing game that gave opponents fits” (Davenport via Bleacher Report)."

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They ranked first in both yards allowed and points allowed that year, and the cliche “defense wins championships” truly came to life as they stonewalled the number one ranked Raiders’ offense and Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon in their blowout Super Bowl win. New defensive coordinator has a long way to go to get the current Bucs defense to this level, but hopes to get off on the right foot in 2019.

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Winning the franchise’s only championship, the 2002 Buccaneers were truly the definition of a team ruled by their defense. The offense led by game manager Brad Johnson, rode the coattails of the Kiffin led defense who often put them in position to succeed. With two Hall of Famers in Brooks and Sapp already, this defense has potential for two more in Lynch (a finalist six straight years) and Barber; a truly one of a kind unit.