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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 13:31 GMT
Gridiron's greatest defences
Oakland's Rich Gannon is sacked by Greg Spires in the 2003 Superbowl final
Tampa's defence was too strong for Oakland

Tampa Bay Buccaneers stormed to a convincing 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders to become surprise winners of Super Bowl XXXVII.

The Raiders' highly-rated offence was simply overpowered by one of the finest defensive displays in Super Bowl history.

But where does the Bucs defence rank in comparison with the likes of the Pittsburgh Steeler and Minnesota Viking defences of yesteryear?

BBC Sport Online rates the greatest defences in history and asks which is the best ever?

Have your say

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

A class apart for an entire decade, the "Steel Curtain" defence had an unprecedented effect on the way NFL teams defend.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Era: 1970s
Star men: "Mean" Joe Greene, LC Greenwood, Jack Ham, Mel Blount
Awards: Four Super Bowl titles

Equally strong against pass and run, the defence was the cornerstone of Pittsburgh's golden era in the 1970s.

A haul of four Super Bowl victories between 1975 and 1980 speaks for itself - the NFL has not seen a more dominant defensive unit.

2. Baltimore Ravens

In the 2001 Super Bowl, the Ravens' fearsome defence utterly squeezed the life out of the New York Giants in a 34-7 rout.

Baltimore Ravens
Era: 2000s
Star men: Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis
Awards: 2001 Super Bowl winners

Under the guidance of head coach Brian Billick, the team claimed a series of defensive records en route to victory.

The Ray Lewis-led Ravens went 50 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, and in the 2000-2001 season they became the first team since 1978 to allow fewer than 1,000 rushing yards in a regular season and set the record for fewest points conceded (165).

3. Minnesota Vikings

Known as the "Purple People Eaters", the Vikings defensive line punished rivals throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Minnesota Vikings
Era: 1968-1971
Star men: Alan Page, Carl Ellar, Jim Marshall
Awards: 1970 Super Bowl runners-up

Such was their confidence in halting their opponents' every offensive move, they became famous for the phrase "let's meet at the quarterback".

A perfect mix of speed and power, they created immense pressure by surging through the middle of the offensive line.

4. Chicago Bears

The arrival of Dallas Cowboys assistant Mike Ditka started a new era in the game which climaxed in the 46-10 destruction of the New England Patriots in 1986.

Chicago Bears
Era: 1982-86
Star men: Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, William Perry
Awards: 1986 Super Bowl winners

While running back Walter Payton was crucial to the Bears' offensive success, the team's miserly defence, known as the Monsters of Midway, helped ensure a 12-game winning streak to start the season.

Relying on a high-risk strategy of blitzing linebackers and safeties, the "46" defence put an unprecedented amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Before coach Jon Gruden arrived, the Buccaneers boasted a sound defence.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Era: 2000s
Star men: Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks
Awards: 2003 Super Bowl winners

But with Gruden on board, the Bucs reached a new level on the defensive side of the ball, best seen in their destruction of the Raiders in 2003.

The Bucs' defensive record is all the more impressive when you consider that only Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks can count themselves among the league's leading lights.

6. Denver Broncos

Known as the "Orange Crush", Denver's defensive prowess gradually emerged from 1973, when the team recorded their first winning season.

Denver Broncos
Era: Late 1970s
Star men: Lyle Alzado, Randy Grandishar, Tom Jackson
Awards: 1977 Super Bowl runners-up

The star of the show for the Broncos was Randy Grandishar, a tireless tackler.

Despite being part of an undersized defence, Grandishar and his fellow Denver defenders flourished due to their speed and to the fact that they remained together for so long.

I would add the '91 Eagles who managed to take the team to 10-6 with no offense to speak of.
Duncan Martin, UK

Because they were overshadowed by the performance of their glamorous offensive units, the defences of the San Francisco 49ers of the mid-80s and the Green Bay Packers of the 96/97 season are often overlooked.
Bruce G. Bradley, United States

Those rankings were accurate except the '85 Bears should be ranked at least second with the Ravens and Vikings pushed down a spot. Buddy Ryan's 46 defence was as brutal and just as feared as those Steel Curtain units.
Michael Shaw, London, UK

Dallas' epoch defining side of the 1990s must be up there too. Perhaps not the greatest of all time, but a very good unit that worked on the weaknesses of their opponents and cherished the chance to smash those offences with rising reputations.
Conrad Marks, UK

I wonder why a perfect season would not merit a spot on your greatest defences list. Put me down for the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Michael Klus, Hamilton, Canada

While the Ravens in 2000 had the best defensive year, the Steelers of the 70s take the crown for longevity sakes. The Steel Curtain invented defence. Having given up 21 points in the Super Bowl, the Bucs defense does not match these great defences.
Brian Stacey, New Orleans, USA

It has to be the '85 Bears. Two consecutive shutouts in the play-offs followed by a demolition of the Pats in the Super Bowl. Teams feared them.
Brian Kurtz, Chicago, USA

The only Achilles heel with the Bears was that their blitz happy attitude sometimes left their secondary vulnerable.
Chris Arning, London, England

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 BBC Sport's Todd Ant
"The best defence lived up to its billing"
BBC Sport Online rounds up the latest news from the NFL.

Bucs 48-21 Raiders

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