SLAM Presents TD: Special Super Bowl Issue is on sale now! In it, we took every Super Bowl winner and ranked them in order of greatness. Example: If the ’85 Bears played the ’75 Steelers, who would win? That team is higher. We’re counting them down from 47-1; next up, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.—Ed.
No. 19: Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XII
- Date: January 28, 2001
- Game MVP: Ray Lewis
- Record: 12-4
Every time someone makes the argument that a team can’t win a Super Bowl without a top-shelf QB, the rebuttal invariably comes in the form of the 2000 Ravens, who rode a ferocious defense to the NFL Championship. Baltimore’s D remains the gold standard for defensive excellence and outpaces even the ’85 Bears from a statistical standpoint. Even though the Ravens struggled to score points, their awesome defense was always stout and was the engine that drove the Super Bowl title team.
This was a historic bunch. The Ravens gave up the fewest points in the league, a mere 10.3 per game. It limited rivals to just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. It pitched four shutouts, held seven other opponents to 10 or fewer points and surrendered only 23 points in four post-season games. Baltimore forced 49 turnovers, held five opponents to fewer than 10 first downs and six to fewer than 200 total yards.
Leading the way was middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was at the peak of his powers. He keyed a nasty 3-4 alignment that didn’t care whether the Ravens offense scored 3 points or 30. The goal was to stifle rivals, and more often than not, that’s exactly what happened.
The only problem was that the Ravens offense wasn’t much more successful than the rivals the Baltimore defense stuffed on a regular basis. The season started with Tony Banks under center, and that didn’t go well, as evidenced by his 8 TD passes and 8 interceptions. He was replaced by Trent Dilfer, who didn’t fare much better (12, 11), although he did help lead the Ravens to a 7-1 record in the season’s second half and was under center for the post-season run. It didn’t hurt that Dilfer had rookie running back Jamal Lewis (1,364 yards) on his team, along with a pre-KC Priest Holmes (588).
Despite a legendary defense and a great finish to the season, the Ravens didn’t win the AFC Central, ending up a game behind the Titans. That meant Baltimore would have only one possible home game in the Playoffs, something that didn’t seem to bother the Ravens one bit. Baltimore hosted Denver in the wild-card round and kept the Broncos offense from mustering any sort of threat in a 21-3 win.
From there it was a battle with those same Titans, who had split a pair of games with the Ravens during the regular season. Those expecting a tight game were rewarded—for three quarters. Baltimore and the Titans were tied, 10-10, as the fourth stanza dawned. But a 90-yard return of a blocked field goal by Anthony Mitchell, and Lewis’ 50-yard interception return for a score gave the Ravens a 24-10 win, despite their anemic 134 yards of total offense.
Baltimore’s offense wasn’t that much better in the AFC title game in Oakland, but it didn’t matter, thanks to four interceptions, three Matt Stover field goals and a 96-yard pass from Dilfer to Shannon Sharpe that gave the Ravens a 16-3 victory and the first-ever Super Bowl berth for the franchise.
The Giants were no match for Baltimore—particularly and predictably their defense. The Ravens picked QB Kerry Collins off four times, held the Giants to 152 total yards and forced 11 punts. The Ravens weren’t much better, punting 10 times themselves and totaling only 244 yards, but they found many different ways to score in a 34-7 rout. Dilfer threw a scoring strike to Brandon Stokley for Baltimore’s first TD; Lewis ran for a touchdown; Duane Starks returned an interception 49 yards for 6 points; and Jermaine Lewis brought back a kickoff 84 yards for a third-quarter score. Had Giants receiver Ron Dixon not brought back a third-quarter kickoff 97 yards, the Ravens would have pitched the first-ever Super shutout.
As it was, Baltimore dominated the Giants and proved that if your defense is historically good, just about anything is possible.
To see the full countdown, click here.