WASHINGTON (AP) — In big money Super Bowls it pays far more to be stingy.
Statistical history favors the tightest defenses in the Super Bowl over the most prolific offenses, something that might hearten Seattle Seahawks fans.
In the 48 year history of the Super Bowl, this is only the second time the No. 1 team in total yards and total passing offense — Denver — has faced the No. 1 defensive team in total yards and passing yards given up: Seattle.
The Broncos averaged 457.3 yards in total offense, including 340.2 passing yards, both way outpacing No. 2 teams. The Seahawks only allowed 273.6 total yards and 172 passing yards, both way outpacing the No. 2 defensive teams.
The only other time this happened, in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, defensive titan Tampa Bay swamped offensive powerhouse Oakland 48-21.
But the defensive advantage goes far beyond that.
Eleven times top defensive leaders went into the Super Bowl, nine of those times they won. The only defensive power losers were the 1982-83 Miami Dolphins, who were tops in overall defense and passing yards, and the 1976-77 Minnesota Vikings who were the best past defenders.
Offensive leaders went into the Super Bowl a dozen times and won seven of those time, barely more than half. And the Broncos have some recent teams that they don't want to emulate. The 2007-08 New England Patriots, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders and 2000-01 St. Louis Rams all lost despite having both the best total and passing offenses.
Of course, the best guarantee is to be No. 1 in both defense and offense. The undefeated 1972-73 Miami Dolphins and the 1977-78 Dallas Cowboys both were tops in total offense and defense. And both won the Super Bowl.
Go Figure, an occasional feature from The Associated Press, explores the news through numbers and what they mean.