BALTIMORE — Jan. 28, 2001, will perpetually symbolize coronation day for the Baltimore Ravens‘ protection.
Within the minds of Ravens gamers, their 34-7 overcome the New York Giants in Tremendous Bowl XXXV topped the 2000 squad as the best single-season protection in NFL historical past.
On this 20-year anniversary, this Baltimore protection continues to face out from the remainder in each approach — in data, within the postseason, and because the gamers proudly extoll, in perspective.
Recognized then because the transplanted franchise from Cleveland, the Ravens had by no means produced a profitable season or clinched a playoff bid of their first 4 seasons. In 2000, Baltimore’s id was cast by 11 bullies on protection who weren’t simply bent on shutting out groups. They wished to punish you with each drive-you-in-the-turf sack and swarming gang deal with behind the road of scrimmage.
Their NFL data for fewest factors (165) and speeding yards (970) in a 16-game season have by no means been threatened. The one offensive landing allowed is the fewest ever in 4 postseason video games. The swagger exuded by the Ravens brought on jaws to drop at a document price as effectively, although the NFL would not precisely maintain monitor of that.
The Ravens trash-talked working backs and even an opposing proprietor. They flipped the center finger on the Black Gap in Oakland earlier than the AFC Championship Sport. Heading into the Tremendous Bowl, the Ravens did not merely assure a victory. They repeatedly predicted a shutout (a promise which, technically, they did dwell as much as) at information conferences all week.
How assured was this Baltimore protection? By halfway by means of the season, the routine of discussing the defensive sport plan earlier than video games had ended within the locker room.
“We did not actually care about that anymore,” former Ravens defensive deal with Tony Siragusa recalled just lately. “It was extra about: What dance are we going to do once we get an interception? We’re not even speaking concerning the sport as a result of we knew we have been that good. We’re working towards ‘the grenade,’ the place one man throws the ball up within the air and everybody falls again. I used to be like, that is actually tousled, man.”
Ray Lewis, the sport’s greatest defensive participant, manned the center with linebacker Jamie Sharper on a protection that produced 4 shutouts. Up entrance, Siragusa and Sam Adams fashioned a 700-pound wall that held groups to 2.7 yards per carry. On the sides, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett took out quarterbacks and questioned why the backups by no means wrote them thank-you notes for getting them into video games. Within the secondary, safeties Rod Woodson and Kim Herring teamed with two younger first-round picks, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks, to show interceptions into touchdowns.
By the tip of the season, Baltimore ranked first in a half-dozen defensive classes. Nonetheless, the one solution to get talked about in the identical breath as Chicago’s Monsters of the Halfway and Pittsburgh’s Metal Curtain was to win a championship.
Within the Tremendous Bowl, the Ravens pressured 5 turnovers, sacked Kerry Collins 4 occasions and returned an interception for a landing.
“I’d say it is one of the best one-year protection in NFL historical past,” Sharper stated. “They’re going to evaluate us to the Steelers defenses who ran for nearly a decade and so they’ll evaluate us to the Chicago Bears protection who did not have free company again in these days both. So, it is one of the best one-year protection undoubtedly and it is proven by the stats we now have nonetheless.”
Right here is the story of how the Ravens’ protection etched itself into NFL historical past twenty years in the past, as instructed by the individuals who lived it:
‘Faucet that hat’
The Ravens began the season by shutting out three of their first 5 opponents. The defining second of the primary month of the season got here in Baltimore’s 37-Zero win over the Bengals in Week 4, when the Ravens brought on Professional Bowl working again Corey Dillon to give up after being held to 9 yards speeding on 12 carries. Early within the fourth quarter, Dillon headed to the sideline and waved off coach Bruce Coslet about going again in. A day later, Coslet resigned.
McCrary: “That was my hit. It was on a line of defense stunt. Siragusa got here throughout my face and took the guard with him. For those who do it efficiently, the guard continues to be caught on Siragusa attempting to go him off to the deal with. So I got here clear. And actually when Corey was handed the ball, I hit him. He had been hit so many occasions all through that sport behind the road of scrimmage, he’d simply had sufficient. He was like, ‘That is ridiculous. What am I doing?’ That was like, wow.”
Sharper: “We could not imagine that he wasn’t on the market. We thought that he was damage, however then we heard from another guys that he simply did not wish to return within the sport as a result of he was getting hit a lot. It was sort of surprising to see that, however we undoubtedly intimidated some working backs. That is if you knew that we had nice protection: When a working again says, ‘All proper, I am not going again within the sport anymore. I am not taking these hits.'”
Woodson: “Corey is an impressive participant. We began hitting him. Ray’s hitting him. Jamie Sharper’s hitting him. Large Goose and Sam Adams are hitting him. We’re getting in our licks within the secondary. After some time, you simply faucet that hat. That was our motto. We’ll come downhill. We’ll hit you within the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter. Can you’re taking within the fourth quarter? Do you hand over the soccer or do you battle?”
Solidified by drought
The Ravens went 0-for-October, failing to attain a landing the complete month. This five-game landing drought would’ve been some extent the place many groups hit all-time low. The protection refused to level fingers and, the truth is, helped the Ravens win two video games throughout that stretch. For Baltimore, it is the place a Tremendous Bowl crew was galvanized.
Boulware: “We had a streak the place we did not even rating a landing, and I keep in mind sitting in our defensive assembly room. We have been possibly giving up 9 or 12 factors and Marvin actually cussing us out saying, ‘Look, we have got to search out methods to attain and we have got to do higher than that.’ And I used to be like, ‘Man, we’re fairly dang good to be holding these groups to the place we’re, however now our mindset as a protection isn’t solely are we gonna maintain folks to scoring nothing.’ That was a realization that we have one thing particular occurring our facet of the ball.”
Trent Dilfer: “[After taking over for Tony Banks as the Ravens quarterback in Week 9], we have been within the subject home after apply and Ray came visiting to me and we have been simply speaking, most likely slicing up like we at all times did, and he goes, ‘Yeah, however you noticed that final week, proper? You noticed that no person can rating on us.’ And I am like, ‘Yeah, no kidding.’ Ray goes, ‘No, no, no. You are the man. You get it. Let’s simply all play collectively. If all of us play collectively, we’ll by no means be beat.’ It simply hit me. They are not simply good, they’re nice. And he is proper. It simply sort of made sense to me that you simply put the egos behind us. Put the stats and all that crap behind us. If that is about profitable 3-0, then I am good with that. Let’s be certain that we do not screw it up.”
Woodson: “[After the touchdown drought] each Friday, we might go along with [tight end] Shannon [Sharpe] to the sauna and the chilly tub collectively. We used to go as much as Shannon and ask him: What number of factors are you going to provide us this week? He would say, ‘We acquired 13.’ We’re like: ‘For those who give us 13, we’re good. We’ll win.’ His factors have been at all times shut.”
Ticked off in Tennessee
The Ravens completed the common season by profitable all seven video games after ending the landing drought and superior to a playoff rematch with the top-seeded Titans within the divisional spherical. Because the groups ready for the opening kickoff, the Titans ran a montage on the stadium video board entitled “A particular message from Brian Billick and the Baltimore Ravens.” It confirmed the Ravens celebrating their victory in Nashville earlier that season and included all of Billick’s feedback concerning the Titans.
Billick*: “We get there and so they run on the scoreboard all of the [s—] that we have been saying, and a whole lot of it was the silly [s—] I used to be saying. The factor I do keep in mind is I am wanting up and going, ‘OK, OK, it is on.’ And Goose walks by me and says, ‘We acquired you, Coach.’ Then, [the Titans] go the size of the sphere [for a touchdown on the opening drive] and I’m going, ‘Uh, we acquired to rethink this.'”
Ray Lewis*: “They put a pleasant sport plan collectively. Look, this crew knew us very effectively. They hit us with some bootlegs early and [Titans quarterback Steve] McNair made a few performs. I am going to always remember when Rod made a play on [Titans running back] Eddie George and he acquired up and put his arms up. I instructed him, ‘You already know what, they’re right here for a battle. They actually wish to battle.’ Coming off to the sideline, I checked out coach [Billick] and he was shouting, ‘Ray, Ray.’ I instructed him, ‘Not proper now. Not proper now.'”
Billick*: “I made a tough left on the Gatorade and stated, ‘OK, Ray’s acquired it. I’ll keep out of the way in which.’ It labored out OK.”
Sam Adams: “[The Titans] got here out with extra vitality than us, they executed and so they have been prepared. They wished to show that they have been males. Properly, guess what? It takes 60 minutes to show that and never one drive.”
The Ravens did not hand over one other offensive landing within the last 112 minutes, 43 seconds of postseason play.
Revenge within the Black Gap
The Ravens reached the AFC Championship Sport in Oakland, the place Siragusa made a free-agent go to in 1997.
Siragusa: “[Raiders owner] Al Davis brings me in and to start with, he sleeps ’til midday, so you have to meet with him within the afternoon. They bring about me on the market and so they say, ‘We’ll give you this a lot cash.’ So, being the person who I’m, I knew that the tax state of affairs was actually dangerous in California. I wished to speak to my accountants as a result of [Davis] was providing me a little bit bit extra [than the Ravens], nevertheless it wasn’t sufficient extra. So I’m going within the subsequent day and I say I figured it out, and he is like, ‘Properly, Tony, on daily basis is a brand new day.’ And I used to be like, actually? He goes, ‘I’ll need to give you $50,000 lower than I supplied you yesterday.’ I instructed him to provide me my aircraft ticket. [F—] you. And I go away.”
Quick ahead 4 years later, when Siragusa and the Ravens’ protection have been pitted towards All-Professional quarterback Wealthy Gannon. With 10:55 left within the second quarter, Siragusa crushed Gannon into the bottom after an incompletion and knocked him out of the sport.
McCrary: “Oh, he crushed him, man. We have been messing with Goose that he hadn’t had a sack in 20 years, so he needed to soar on him once more simply to ensure. However what an enormous play as a result of that’s not a straightforward play for an enormous man like that. Whenever you come all by your self and it is simply you and the quarterback, often the quarterback can escape the massive males. Folks assume that is a straightforward deal with however that is a particularly troublesome deal with to make.”
Boulware: “I keep in mind when Goose did that, I checked out Gannon and he did not stand up. In my thoughts, I am like, ‘We’re going to win, we’re going to the Tremendous Bowl. You should purchase your tickets to Tampa proper now.’ And all people on the entire protection, we have been considering the identical factor. This factor is over.”
Siragusa: “I did not wish to damage [Gannon], however I wished to behave like a Raider a little bit bit in a Ravens uniform. Only a couple low-cost photographs would not be too dangerous. As I am strolling off the sphere — we simply beat the Raiders and we’ll the Tremendous Bowl — I see Al Davis within the tunnel. I stroll as much as him and I’m going, ‘Hey Al, the way you doing? Good factor you saved that $50 grand, [a–hole].’ I walked proper by him and into the locker room.”
The Ravens confronted the top-seeded New York Giants, who routed the Minnesota Vikings 41-Zero within the NFC Championship Sport. Baltimore wasn’t impressed.
Woodson: “That is the God’s sincere reality, once we seemed on the New York Giants’ video of the primary sport that we watched of them, we have been like, ‘They are not going to beat us.’ I feel we noticed a half of that sport — and that was their greatest sport — and I used to be like, ‘We’re approach higher than that.’ We knew we have been going to win the sport. We did not’ know by how a lot. We did problem ourselves: They are not going to get throughout the 50. I feel they acquired throughout the 50 twice [the Giants never got closer than 29 yards from the end zone the whole game].”
Adams: “You already know, I do not assume folks have the gumption to really feel prefer it’s alleged to occur. I keep in mind within the Tremendous Bowl once we scored that first landing early within the first quarter [Dilfer’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley], the protection was going loopy on the sideline as a result of I keep in mind saying, ‘The sport is over. We simply gained the Tremendous Bowl.’ As a result of all we wanted was one landing. All we wanted was one rating. And that is how we felt. We shut them out. They did not rating within the Tremendous Bowl both.”
The protection did shut out Kerry Collins and the Giants’ offense, however New York did keep away from the shutout when Ron Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards for a landing with 3:31 left within the third quarter.
Woodson: “We have been mad. We wished to have the primary shutout in Tremendous Bowl historical past. So we have been upset. Despite the fact that it did not go towards us, it goes towards us. That was a little bit upsetting that the return was going to go towards us.”
Boulware: “My greatest reminiscence of the Tremendous Bowl was that is most likely one of many best video games that we performed all yr. That was a whole blowout. Happening to Tennessee, that was powerful. It was sort of tough getting by means of Oakland. We beat the Giants 34-7.”
It was not really easy for McCrary.
McCrary: “I hit [Giants running back Tiki Barber] within the ribs attempting to get the ball out and my hand ricochets and hits Rod Woodson’s helmet. I look down at my hand and it is like the dimensions of three arms. I acquired contained in the tunnel with Invoice Tessendorf, the coach, and so they peel the glove off. A bone is sticking by means of the knuckle and it’s simply shattered all in there. He seems to be at me and stated, ‘Mike, you performed a hell of a sport.’ I am like, ‘Oh, hell no. We have two different quarters to go.’ They wrapped it up within the solid. I went on the market, acquired a sack and compelled fumble the subsequent play on the Giants’ 1-yard line. So yeah, I completed the sport with that solid on. Nevertheless it shattered into 28 items. The physician instructed me after surgical procedure, he is like ‘Yeah, you bought fortunate. I assume nobody instructed you we thought we have been going to need to amputate your finger.’ We narrowly escaped that. So I am unable to use my [right index] finger, however I do not want it. It simply sits there.”
On the day of the Tremendous Bowl, Siragusa confirmed up on the stadium six hours earlier than everybody else as a result of he was filled with adrenaline. He flipped by means of the sport program and noticed an image of the entire totally different Tremendous Bowl rings. He lower it out and caught that web page in everybody’s locker. If the Ravens acquired that ring, they’d be collectively for the remainder of their lives as a result of the group would deliver again the group that gained the primary Tremendous Bowl. He was proper — the Ravens will maintain a digital 20-year reunion Thursday.
Sharper: “The lasting reminiscence for myself could be how a lot of a household we have been. The primary two years, I lived proper beside Tony Siragusa and I used to be a single man out of faculty. Peter Boulware stayed in my townhome for a little bit bit. I’d go over to Siragusa’s home and his spouse would cook dinner meals for me simply because she knew I did not have anyone to cook dinner for me. I would go over there and eat. My favourite was wedding ceremony soup.”
Adams: “All of us had our quirks and totally different personalities that clashed. However I’d die for Tony Siragusa, Michael McCrary and Ray Lewis. Our bond is what made us particular.”
McCrary: “Once I speak to the blokes, it looks like all of this occurred yesterday. The mindset, the onerous work and the teamwork, it is carried me by means of every thing I’ve achieved the remainder of my life.”
* — From Ravens