INDIANAPOLIS — Go ahead, name a more feared, longer-lasting pass rushing duo from the past two decades than Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Well, apparently, the folks over at NFL.com, namely Elliot Harrison, wasn't too impressed with Freeney and Mathis — or he just plum forgot about them.
Harrison recently compiled a list of the "Top 5 Pass Rush Duos of All-Time," and notably absent from his list were Freeney and Mathis, who terrorized quarterbacks and opposing offenses together for the Indianapolis Colts for the better part of a decade.
Before we get too far into any harsh criticism of Harrison's list, however, we'll acknowledge this is just good offseason chatter until the real football begins at training camp about this time next month. And it's not like Harrison picked some slouches ahead of Freeney and Mathis, but an injustice is an injustice, nonetheless.
First, here's Harrison's list, with some stats and notes on each:
5. Von Miller & DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos; 2014-15: The duo averaged more than 10.5 sacks together over this two-year span, and won Super Bowl 50, a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, to wrap up the 2015 season. Obviously these two were huge pieces of one of the best overall defenses in league history, so while they're great players, the whole team success stands out.
4. Derrick Thomas & Neil Smith, Kansas City Chiefs; 1990: Thomas erupted with a career-best and NFL-leading 20 sacks that year, while Smith contributed 9.5 sacks — an average of almost 15 sacks between the two of them. These guys obviously belong on this list for this particular season, and many others to follow.
3. Harvey Martin & Randy White, Dallas Cowboys; 1977: Martin and White were co-MVPs of Super Bowl XXII. Martin had an unofficial 20 sacks in a 14-game season that year, while White reportedly had 12.5 sacks. A very deserving duo, though obviously quarterbacks weren't nearly as protected then as they have been the past couple decades.
2. Reggie White & Clyde Simmons, Philadelphia Eagles; 1991: This duo averaged 14 sacks together that year, and both were First-Team All-Pro defensive ends. They belong, no question about it.
1. Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen, Los Angeles Rams; 1967: Two standouts of the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome," Jones had an unofficial 26 sacks that year, while Olsen had 11. This Hall of Fame duo should stick, too.
Again, all deserving, but Freeney and Mathis were simply overlooked here.
From 2003 (Mathis' first year in the league) until 2012 (Freeney's final season with the Colts), this Indy duo combined for 186 regular-season sacks.
Think about that: over a 10-year span, Freeney and Mathis averaged almost 19 sacks together each season.
You want winners? OK, the Colts — led by Peyton Manning and Co. on offense and Freeney and Mathis on defense — weren't only the winningest team of any decade in NFL history in the 2000s, but they won two AFC titles and one Super Bowl.
So, yeah, maybe other pass rush duos have had better collective individual seasons than Freeney and Mathis, but nobody did it better for a longer period of time than No. 93 and 98.
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