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2015 Denver Broncos ranked third best defense of all time

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When the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50, it was clear that the defensive unit had achieved something truly incredible and worth remembering.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking any all-time lists is always difficult, especially when ones bias begins creeping in, however, when an outsider ranks your favorite team right where you felt they belonged, you take notice.

That is exactly what Gil Brandt did on NFL.com on Wednesday.

His top four exactly match my own top four, which is good enough for me. Why? Because the 2015 Denver Broncos rank third all-time, right behind the incredible '85 Bears and '00 Ravens defenses.

If you read through his piece, you will find that the '85 Bears defense provided Wade Phillips with the exact recipe to use to terrorize the NFL in 2015 - 30 years later.

But the bottom line is, the Bears shut people down by relying on man coverage, blitzing a lot and taking away the run. People really couldn't do anything against them.

Tell me that doesn't sound a hell of a lot like the Broncos defense in 2015. It's a recipe that can only work if you have elite talent at every single position, which is what both the '85 Bears had and the '15 Broncos. It pains me to think how good this squad could have been in a different era.

Anyway, of that 2015 run, Brandt had this to say:

3) 2015 Denver Broncos

Yards allowed: 283.1 per game (first). Points allowed: 18.5 per game (fourth).

I was very surprised to see it happen in this pass-happy era, but the Broncos' defense basically single-handedly won Super Bowl 50. Denver's offense was outgained in the playoffs and couldn't even muster up more than 200 yards against the Panthers in the Super Bowl, but the Broncos held all three playoff opponents to an astonishing combined total of 44 points -- that's less than 15 points per game scored by offenses featuring top-notch quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Cam Newton. The Steelers and Patriots were good teams, and the Panthers, of course, led the NFL in scoring in 2015. Denver collected 27 takeaways, tied for seventh-most in the NFL, but still posted a negative turnover differential (minus-4), illustrating just how little the offense contributed to the cause. The Broncos allowed an NFL-low 283 yards per game and were one of four teams to allow less than 300 points for the season. Accomplishing such dominance in today's offense-driven environment is even more impressive than what some of the big-name defenses of the past did.

Interestingly, Denver didn't do it with a lot of bells and whistles -- just old-time football. They'd make one or two substitutions on third down or in special situations, but the defense was comprised of really solid players who were very thoroughly coached, technique-wise. Coordinator Wade Phillips is like his late father, Bum -- kind of a throwback, an old Texas high school coach who has gotten great defensive play wherever he's been. It's not flashy, it's not exotic, it's just solid football, with guys being in the right place.

Of course, it's rare that you'll have a team like this, with two great pass-rushers (Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware), three shutdown corners (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby) and a line (with Sylvester Williams, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson) that can stop the run. Not often will a team have all those pieces in place. As Newton told me before the Super Bowl, a lot of teams have one outstanding corner, some have two, but you hardly see three. But thanks to some shrewd moves, including the opportunistic additions of Ware and Talib in 2014, the Broncos had something special in place.

Coincidentally, the Broncos were on the receiving end of two brutal Super Bowl blowouts to two other defensive units on this list. The '86 Giants and '13 Seahawks. Sometimes luck just isn't on your side. Just ask the Carolina Panthers.

The two other teams that Brandt considered, but left out of his Top 5 are both worthy of the discussion. In fact, I put that '02 Buccaneers squad ahead of the '86 Giants. I was a unborn for that '74 Steelers team, but I am sure they are the reason the Steel Curtain is a thing, just like the Orange Crush is a thing for us Broncos fans.

In any case, it's an incredible feat for our favorite team and players to be forever in the discussion of "greatest defense of all time". It truly hammers home the reality that 2015 was truly a magical season. One we should all cherish and remember.