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538: 2013/2015 Broncos and the 1982/1984 Dolphins

The 2013 Broncos had one of the greatest offenses of all time and made it to the Super Bowl.  Two years later, Denver is again in the Super Bowl, on the strength of a superb defense.  How rare is that?  Well, the only team that really fits that profile is the Miami Dolphins, who made the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1984, and had a similar swing (albeit in the other direction).

Over at 538, I look at the  similarities between those two teams, and other teams that have swung from an extreme offensive/defensive identity to an extreme defensive/offensive identity just two years later.  A special thanks to Adam Harstad, who was the one who gave me the simple but creative methodology to display these results.

In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Miami Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl on the strength of an incredible defense that allowed the NFL’s fewest yards, first downs, passing yards and net yards per pass attempt. The offense wasn’t very good, but the defense — known as the Killer Bees because the last names of six starters began with the letter B — guided the team to the Super Bowl, as Miami ranked second in points allowed and third in takeaways.

Just two years later, the Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl, and once again, the team was one-dimensional. But, remarkably, it was the offense that was the dominant unit, as Miami led the NFL in points, yards, first downs and net yards per pass attempt, while a second-year quarterback named Dan Marino set single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.

You can read the full article here.

  • Richie

    That was right around the time I became a Dolphins fan. I was too young to realize it at the time, but later on it fascinated me that just 2 years apart the Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl with the Killer B’s defense, and then Dan Marino had to carry a weak defense to the Super Bowl.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. Though, I suppose, no less crazy than how Denver has turned over.

  • John

    What’s funny is that Miami’s 1983 team may have been better than those two SB teams. They had what the 1982 team didn’t (Dan Marino and RB David Overstreet) and they had a better D than the 84 Dolphins did.

    • Richie

      I have no recollection of the playoff games vs. Seattle.

      http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198312310mia.htm

      But the Dolphins were an 8-point favorite at home. It looks like turnovers probably killed them. Marino threw 2 picks, Fulton Walker lost 2 fumbles and Overstreet lost one.

      I wish the play-by-play and win probability was available.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Seattle came in with a 9-7 record, and almost no one gave the Seahawks a chance. Watching the game on TV, it seemed like Miami overlooked Seattle. David Overstreet was a developing player who may have become a star, and could have anchored Miami’s running game for years. But this was the 80s, and cocaine was sadly popular.

    • One could say the same thing about the 2014 Broncos (or 2012).