Bob Harris’ Defense to Defend the Planet: The Fantastic 46


Football Diehard’s Bob Harris goes with a comic book-like reality on defense. 

Basic Approach

Yeah. … So I’m not the guy who spends a ton of time breaking down film, right? I’m basically just your average, ordinary run-of-the-mill fantasy player who tends to fly by the seat of his pants. I am, however, a fan of the game. I follow NFL news very closely; I can recite depth charts backwards and forwards; I’ve developed a sound understanding of how football teams operate; and I’ve been doing this long enough to see the tea leaves and read between the lines. I rely heavily on all those things in the day-to-day running of my fantasy teams.

Given all that, I tend to (okay, substitute “totally” for “tend to” there) leave the serious film study to the Matt Waldman’s of the world (while paying careful attention to what they have to say). But as I sat down to begin this project, I realized film study would be imperative. So I hunkered down. I cranked up the DVD. And I learned. A ton.

Of course, my breakdowns weren’t actual game film. I took a different route, watching, re-watching, studying and dissecting some of my favorite science-fiction flicks. The emphasis was on battling and/or fending off alien attack. I watched. I learned.

And now, much like Rowdy Roddy Piper’s character, Nada, in the 1988 classic “They Live,” I am ready to get this thing rolling in the appropriate manner.

The Rules

We’re using this game to defend earth from alien invaders. I’m not sure why we’d even want rules.

That said, I’m fine with the set currently in place, which offers sufficient offensive flexibility to take full advantage of my squad. On the other side of the ball? I might draw an inordinate number of flags; but if you’re working under the assumption that flags equal intimidation (and I am), that’s just fine.

I might even encourage it…

The Defense


  • Defensive Coordinator: Buddy Ryan
  • LDE: Dan Hampton
  • LDT: Steve McMichael
  • RDT: William Perry
  • RDE: Richard Dent
  • LLB: Otis Wilson
  • MLB: Mike Singletary
  • RLB: Wilber Marshall
  • LCB: Mike Richardson
  • RCB: Leslie Frazier
  • SS: Dave Duerson
  • FS: Gary Fencik

Behind The Selections
At the risk of copping out on this side of the ball — there are no shortage of players I’d love to mix and match — I’m going to play it safe (and my choice won’t come as a huge surprise). The truth is, it seems ludicrous to do otherwise with the 1985 Bears defense available to me. I’m not sure I could cobble together a unit that more embodies my approach to this project.

Tough? Check. Smart? Check.

Long-time NFL observer and current Bleacher Report columnist Dan Pompei explained it better than I ever could.

Never in the history of football has a defense intimidated quarterbacks any better. Playing with passion, ruthlessness and cunning, the 1985 Bears forced seven quarterback substitutions over the course of the season.

This may have been the best blitzing team of all time. The front seven was loaded with phenomenal pass-rushing talent, including Hall of Famers Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary. Also in the mix were Steve McMichael, who ranks third all-time among defensive tackles in sacks, and outside linebacker Wilber Marshall, who some think was the most talented player on the unit. The defense featured nine players who would at some point play in a Pro Bowl.

What’s more, the Bears had a cutting-edge scheme: Buddy Ryan’s 46.”

Pompei went on to explain that what separated the ’85 Bears from the rest is they could beat offenses with overwhelming athleticism as well as with scheme. I’ll go ahead and point out the fact that my head coach, Belichick, is pretty capable in that regard as well.

As Michael Holley pointed out in 2004’s “Patriot Reign,” his behind-the-scenes, all-access book on the team, one of the ways Belichick prepared his squad for Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams was by working very closely with his staff to analyze and exploit any Ram weaknesses in defense and offense. He decided to target the Rams’ running back, which was a very unconventional strategy.

Belichick’s strategy to stay in the game, keep it close and wait for opportunities paid off during the actual game. The Patriots made the Rams fight hard for any gains and it took an early toll on the Rams with the Patriots ultimately squeaking out a close win over a favored St. Louis and the Greatest Show On Turf offense.

Key Reserves

As I mentioned above, there were any number of players I’d like to include on this squad. Some of them I fondly remember from my youth. Guys who thrilled me with their physical style of play (and in some cases flamboyant personalities that matched their on-field demeanor). I’ve tossed in a couple current players to add a little balance: DT Randy White (are you familiar with the word “Manster“?), Ndamukong Suh (my defense needs a Dobler); DE Lyle Alzado, Reggie White; MLB Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Jack Lambert, Mike Curtis (in case any alien fans get out of hand during the game) (and yes; this is more middle linebackers than I’ll likely need. … But you can never have too many badasses); OLB Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas; CB Lester Hayes (do you need to ask?), Mel Blount; S Ronnie Lott and Sean Taylor (anybody who’d do this — to a punter no less — in the Pro Bowl is a guy I want on my team).

The Specialists

  • KR: Devin Hester
  • P: Shane Lechler
  • PK: Stephen Gostkowski

Behind The Selections
Hester’s prowess as a return man is evident with a glance at the record book. He holds the NFL record for most all-time return touchdowns (14 punts, 5 kickoffs, 1 missed field goal) and most all-time punt return touchdowns. Because of that nose for the end zone, no return man in the universe (you see what I did there?) instills greater fear in the hearts (or whatever they might have that passes for a heart) of opposing teams when he drops back to do his job than Hester.

While Ray Guy is the only pure punter in the NFL Hall of Fame, he’s not the man for me. Lechler, with his career average of 47.5 yards per punt (and with his single season average of 51.1 yards per punt in 2009 being the second-best all time), I’ll go with the other Raider thank you very much.

And finally, Gostkowski, who has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, gets the “Trust in Belichick” vote after becoming New England’s all-time leading scorer in 2014, passing Adam Vinatieri. That works.

Summary As you can see. I’ve done the film study; I’ve put in careful thought and consideration. End result. Sorry aliens, not sorry at all.

FSWA Hall of Famer Bob Harris is the inspiration for countless fantasy writers. You can (and should) follow him on Twitter at @Footballdiehard. 

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