Our Baltimore Gridiron Staff give their thoughts on this year’s (2012-2013) team and the Super Bowl team in 2000-2001. We’re not assuming anything, this team hasn’t won a Super Bowl yet, that hopefully will be the outcome. Still, we compare both teams that made it to the Super Bowl.
The 2000 Ravens were a team that could win games based on defense and Matt Stover’s right leg. The regular season included four victories by shutout as well as five straight weeks without an offensive touchdown. Both stats would be unheard of in today’s game. The 2012 edition is defined by high scoring offense and big plays downfield and a defense that bends but doesn’t break inside the twenty against opponents.
These teams do share so commonalities. Both won their Wild-card match-up at home only to go on the road for the next two to knock off higher seeded opponents. Each had an intriguing mix of youth, experience, leadership and personality among its roster.
The memories for me of that first championship are still pretty vivid. My wife and I were just out of our first year of marriage and I can remember the huge party we held in our basement with family and friends. I was without kids then with only a dog to dress up in Ravens gear. I remembered feeling very strongly that if the Ravens got by Divisional rival Tennessee (What a great team they had!) then a Super Bowl appearance was inevitable. Oddly enough I had the same feeling this year about Denver. After the victory I drove down from my Baltimore county home into the city to celebrate with the revelers in Fells Point. It was a wild evening and one that won’t soon be forgotten. Fans need to enjoy this moment, it’s a small reward for all your fanatic behavior over the years.
The words to describe the 2000 team was ‘dominating Defense.’ For all the talk of the 85 Chicago Bears being the best defense, the 2000 Ravens team still holds the record for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season at 165. Plus, they didn’t have an explosive offense. When the Ravens went into Tennessee and beat the Titans in the playoffs, fans new they could win the Super Bowl.
The words to describe this year’s team: heart, grit and guts. There have been so many personal stories and challenges that affected this team, that this has created one of the strongest bonds for a team that we might ever witness in sports. What is magical about this team is that they don’t panic, rather they rise to the occasion. The defense has come full circle, a unit that struggled and was plagued by injuries–are in sync now–partly because of the Ray Lewis’ leadership/retirement which has this team playing with a sense of urgency. What else is great is that this team can score points, they are a more explosive offense then the 2000 team. Much like the win on the road to beat the Titans for the 2000 team, this year’s team had quite a monumental task of going on the road to Denver and New England against two of the best quarterbacks in the modern era. There has to be something said, about being ‘hot’ in the playoffs.
There is also a lot to be said for quarterback Joe Flacco and his story. Instead of crumbling under the pressure because of an up and down season, he has carried the offense on his shoulders. For some reason the national media doesn’t appreciate Flacco no matter what he does, or no matter how many playoff games he wins. This journey to the Super Bowl has to be gratifying for ‘Joe Cool’ and his supporters.
Simply stated, the Ravens of 2012-13 would be completely over-matched by the aggressive and dominant Ravens of 2000-01. The comparison between the two is borderline farcical. For all of their much maligned short comings on offense, the 00-01 team was actually pretty solid. Although Dilfer was never going to throw like Joe, Jamal Lewis was straight destroying people, Shannon Sharpe was en route to Canton, and Jonathan Ogden was rounding into the absolute pinnacle of his career. You simply can’t match that. As for the defense? Well why bother. We all know how good they were. Even the special teams were solid. Jermaine Lewis was crushing the competition in much the same way that Jacoby Jones is now.
The biggest shortcoming that the 2000-01 team had in comparison to the 2012-13 edition was the lack of true emotional swagger. The Ravens of 00-01 were young, inexperienced, and, although outwardly confident, nervous. The Giants that year were nasty good (Barber? Toomer? Strahan? Hillard? Talent was up and down the roster) as were the Titans, and the Raiders. The Ravens had no real expectation of hammering any of them, and it often showed in their production. The 2013 Ravens however are old grizzled veterans. They know what they’re doing, they have complete confidence in their talent, and with the announcement of Ray’s retirement, they have the drive. Never underestimate the power of experience.
As to memories of the 2001 Superbowl, I can only say that I was a freshman in college, and my roommate and I watched the game in our room with very little fanfare. No one seemed to really be all that crazy about the Ravens just yet. Five years in, the fan allegiance was still in its infancy. There certainly would not have been a throng of supporters at an inner harbor pep rally, in an ice storm, just desperate to wish their heroes well.
In the fall of 2000 the Ravens were on their way up to becoming one of the stingiest defenses in the history of the NFL. The reputation the Ravens gained for being such an outstanding defense was cemented during the post season. Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa maintained a solid foothold on the middle of that defensive line. Five rushing touchdowns found their way to the end zone. 970 yards through 16 different contests. 60 yards a game! Trent Dilfer and journeyman Tony Banks split time at quarterback. Dilfer was a great guy in the locker room, leader on the field and good analyst on ESPN. While he was here he played the position well. As much as Brian Billick may have wanted to find that one quarterback, Tony Banks wasn’t going to bring unlimited number of post season victories . During the year they went on their Super Bowl run they really didn’t need an explosive offense. Their defense often did most of the scoring. During the entire postseason the Ravens gave up two touchdowns and three field goals.
Watching the Ravens play during their march to the playoffs and onto the Super Bowl was certainly entertaining in its own way. From what I can recall after the third quarter of the first playoff game I don’t think there was any doubt about which team from the American Football Conference was going to be playing in the Super Bowl.
I had only been in Kansas City for two years and on Super Bowl weekend I was watching the game from my wife’s hospital room. She had just given birth to our daughter. The New York Giants were very good that year. It really didn’t seem to matter. The Ravens would dominate by such a wide margin that by halftime it was almost a foregone conclusion that would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. This year the Ravens are a bit more exciting on offense and have faced a variety of challenges on and the off the field that usually become the type of obstacles that typically would cause most super bowl runs to veer wildly off the track. Sometimes these Super Bowl runs actually last more than one or two football seasons. Sometimes they may be several different seasons strung together. I think I’ve finally recovered from last years defeat to the Patriots but I don’t think I’ve yet to recover from the two prior losses in AFC conference championship to the Pittsburgh Steelers. During the following off-season and subsequent next NFL season the Ravens (Ozzie Newsome) would try to find that one player, or coach that would get us to the next level. He made all the necessary repairs; he thought he brought in all the right fixes. After last year he decided that what he had to work with was exceptional. This time he just had to make sure that whoever was going to catch the ball had really good hands and whoever was going to be kicking the ball had one really good accurate foot.