The Super Bowl is just 17 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 17 years ago to honor this not-so-significant occasion!
Tampa Bay hosted Super Bowl XXXI on January 28, 2001. The game pitted the NFC champion New York Giants against the Baltimore Ravens of the American Football Conference.
Baltimore Ravens 17 Years Ago
The Ravens’ franchise came into existence in 1996. In their first ever draft, they had two first round choices. They selected UCLA OT Jonathan Odgen with the fourth pick and Miami linebacker Ray Lewis with the 26th pick. Thus, Baltimore started off with a bang. Four years later, Odgen anchored the offense while Lewis led the defense. And, what a defense!
The 2000 Ravens coached by Brian Billick put together one of the greatest defensive seasons in NFL history. They are right up there with the ’75 Steelers, ’85 Bears and ’13 Seahawks when it comes to the finest units to win a Super Bowl. Marvin Lewis was the DC for the 12-4 Ravens. Ray Lewis was their best player. Indeed, Lewis may go down in history as the best inside linebacker to ever play this game. But, Baltimore employed solid guys throughout their lineup.
Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams and their total combined weight of 700 pounds made running near impossible and allowed Lewis the freedom to roam sideline to sideline. Veteran Rod Woodson also had a Pro Bowl season at free safety. Young corners Chris McAlister and Duane Starks played with aggression and confidence. The defense was stacked; and it was a good thing because the offense was mediocre at best.
After a 5-1 start, the Ravens went three consecutive games without scoring a touchdown. Consequently, Trent Dilfer replaced the ineffective Tony Banks at starting QB. Dilfer was nothing special, but he did generate enough points to ensure the Ravens would not lose again for the remainder of the season. He looked to throw to tight end Shannon Sharpe or hand the ball off to rookie sensation Jamal Lewis.
Over their last seven games, the Ravens could not generate 300 total yards in a single game. In fact, in two of those contests, they registered less than 150! But, these were the 2000 Ravens. Who needs offense?
From Wild Card to Super Bowl
In the Wild Card round, they knocked off Sharpe’s former team, the Broncos. Indeed, it was Sharpe who made the big play on a fluky 58-yard TD catch and run. That sent the Ravens to division-winner and defending AFC Champion Tennessee. These were the two best teams in football in 2000. And, for anyone who loves defense, this is a must re-watch. The Ravens and Titans hit each other for three hours. Baltimore finished the game with 6 total first down and 5 completed passes. The Titans missed three field goals.
One of those misses was a block returned by Anthony Mitchell giving the Ravens a 17-10 lead. In the fourth quarter, Ray Lewis took over. On a pass intended for Eddie George, Lewis muscled the ball away and bolted to the end zone putting the game away.
In the AFC Championship game, Baltimore was again the underdog on paper. However, Siragusa knocked Raiders’ QB Rich Gannon out of the game and all hope Oakland had was pretty much gone. Sharpe made the only offensive play the Ravens needed with a 96-yard catch and run. Baltimore won 16-3 clinching a trip to Super Bowl XXXV.
New York Giants 17 Years Ago
The New York Giants were not projected to be a Super Bowl contender coming into the 2000 season. Even as the season progressed, they took a back seat to high-scoring teams like the defending World Champion Rams and the Minnesota Vikings. But, head coach Jim Fassel was convinced he had a playoff team on his hands even after a two-game home losing streak dropped their record to 7-4.
Led by the reborn Kerry Collins and the unique talents of running back Tiki Barber, New York won their final five regular season games. On defense, the Giants were led by Pro Bowler Jessie Armstead. They also had two very popular defenders in Michael Strahan and Jason Sehorn. It was Sehorn who made the critical play in the Giants 20-10 win over the rival Eagles. Sehorn made a bobbling catch along the sideline and dashed home for the six.
In the NFC Championship game, the Giants hosted the Vikings. New York pulverized Minnesota 41-0 in what was shockingly one of the most lopsided games in the NFL history. They outgained Minnesota 518-114 on the day and rolled to a 34-0 halftime lead. The Giants were ready to participate in the Super Bowl for a third time.
Defense Wins Championship
Super Bowl XXXV was mostly a boring affair unless you loved the Ravens’ defense. Ray Lewis was everywhere. And, when Trent Dilfer hit Brandon Stokley for an early TD, it appeared that even a 7-0 lead could be insurmountable for New York on this day.
With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the game received a must-needed jolt. It last about 30 seconds and would produce three return touchdowns pushing the game over the miniscule 33-total. First, Starks robbed Collins and ran it back 49 yards for a touchdown. Collins threw four picks on the day. Ron Dixon returned the ensuing kickoff for the Giants’ only points on the day. However, Baltimore’s veteran kick returner Jermaine Lewis responded. His 84-yarder pushed the Ravens to a 24-7 lead and ended the competitive nature of this Super Bowl.
The Ravens went on to win 34-7 giving the franchise their first World Championship and the city their Super Bowl counting the old Colts’ Super Bowl V triumph. Baltimore would continue to be tough defensively as long as Lewis played including another Super Bowl title in his last game after the 2012 season.
The Giants would not make it to the Super Bowl for seven years where they would face a legend by the name of Tom Brady. Tomorrow, we will read about how Brady helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVI!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills