Did the 2015 Denver Broncos have the best defense ever?
Soon to be free-agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson stopped by NFL Total Access on Monday and was posed that very question just a little more than a week after his Broncos stomped the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
"I think we have a strong case, especially as far as recent defenses," Jackson said. "I know there hasn't been a defense like that -- no matter what you say about the Patriots -- there hasn't been a defense like that in a long time. We have 11 dogs on the field really hunting to try and get the ball so I think we're mentioned in the conversation. Strongly mentioned in the conversation."
NFL Media's Willie McGinest mentioned that it could continue if Jackson decides to remain with the Broncos.
"It will continue, yeah, if I sign back," Jackson said.
First things first: Did the Denver Broncos just compile the greatest defense of all time?
The Broncos allowed just 283.1 yards per game, which led the league. They also led the NFL in passing yards per game (199.6) and were third in rushing (83.6), but led the league in yards per carry allowed (3.3).
In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks led the league in total defense, allowing just 273.6 yards per game. They led the league in passing yards per game (172) but were seventh against the run (101.6) and seventh in yards per carry (3.9). In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens were second in total defense (247.9), eighth against the pass (187.3) but first against the run, allowing a stunning 60 yards per game.
During Super Bowl Opening Night, Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seemed to hint that his team was a bit stronger against the run, though he wasn't comparing the Broncos directly against the Seahawks -- he was stacking them up against every other unit he has directed.
"To hold Pittsburgh to 16 points and New England to 18 points, and we play a tremendous game this game, I think you'd have to rate them pretty high," Phillips said. "It's up to everyone to determine that, it depends on how we play obviously, but you almost never lead the league in every category.
"And even rushing, we were third, but we gave up the fewest yards per carry. So we almost literally led the league in every major category."
Era and circumstance make this a difficult comparison. The Seahawks' scheme was transcendent and is now being played by roughly a quarter of the teams in football. Denver shut down a nearly unstoppable offense in the world's biggest game. Is there really a correct answer?
And in terms of whether Jackson will be back to help the Broncos edge out Seattle and Baltimore?
"I think it's 50-50," Jackson said on Total Access. "That's what makes it so hard, because you want to get paid. That's your dream, to get paid and take care of your family. But you still want to win, too."