Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted at: 6:25 p.m., Sunday, January 28, 2001

Ravens win Super Bowl with stifling defense

By Eddie Pells
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens brought brutal efficiency, unbending defense and a dose of explosive excitement to the Super Bowl, putting their own distinctive stamp on America’s great football celebration.

The Ravens made the New York Giants look helpless Sunday, defeating them 34-7 to bring pro football’s championship back to Baltimore for the first time since 1971.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and his defense became part of Super Bowl lore by not allowing a touchdown. The seven points New York scored came on a kickoff return — when Lewis’ defensive unit was not on the field.

"This is the best defense ever," Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa boldly proclaimed.

The Ravens engineered a stunning turnaround from two weeks ago, when the Giants looked every bit like winning Super Bowl material in a 41-0 rout over the Minnesota Vikings.

Baltimore chased Giants quarterback Kerry Collins all over the field and forced him into four interceptions.

The next great debate is whether Siragusa is right, and Baltimore really is the best defense ever to play the game. The Ravens allowed an NFL record-low 165 points this season and only 23 over four playoff games.

"We didn’t just break records, we shattered them," Lewis said. "We dominated literally. This is what you work your whole life for. You come from childhood, dreaming whatever you want it to be, but now, at 25, to be a world champion, what else can I dream of?"

New York’s only high point came in the third quarter when Ron Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and New York’s only points. That cut the deficit to 17-7, but a mere 18 second later, Jermaine Lewis answered with his own score, and the Giants were stuck with the same 17-point hole.

"The emotional flip-flop must have been devastating for them," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The victory was redemption for 75-year-old owner Art Modell, who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season. This was his first Super Bowl title in 40 years as an owner.

"To the people of Baltimore city, Baltimore county and the state of Maryland, this belongs to you," Modell said.

Except for the brief third-quarter flurry, this was not the most entertaining football, especially to the casual fan who might watch the Super Bowl and no other game each year.

Both the Ravens and Giants came in as defensive-minded, plodding teams, whose most notable players were a recovering alcoholic and a linebacker who stood trial for murder.

Both spent the week explaining their styles — not as entertainers, but as purveyors of great defense and grind-it-out football. The Ravens backed up a week’s worth of bravado, in which they guaranteed victories, dominance and the shutout they almost got.

"It was having fun," Ray Lewis said, countering the theory that defense is boring. "We heard it all year. We knew when we came out to play what we had to do."

This game didn’t live up to some of the title games of the recent past. Last season, the St. Louis Rams made a tackle on the 1-yard line on the final play to preserve a 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans. In 1998, John Elway and the Denver Broncos got their first title with a heartstopping 31-24 victory over Green Bay.

At home, however, viewers saw the debut of CBS’s "EyeVision," an instant replay system that appears inspired by arcade games. The system employed 30 digital cameras synchronized to focus on a particular player, showing views that spun about 270 degrees.

The TV audience saw three different points of view during Lewis’ kickoff return. Then, on the game’s final TD, "EyeVision" was deployed to demonstrate that Ravens running back Jamal Lewis did indeed have the ball across the goal line before fumbling.

Still, the most interesting angles may have come before the game.

Woven through the week of buildup were tales of retribution and atonement, bold statements and second chances — in short, it was the NFL at its best and worst.

Headlining the drama was the story of Lewis, who was outside an Atlanta night club after last year’s Super Bowl when two people were stabbed to death.

Lewis was charged with murder, but eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice. He has dealt with these questions all season and this was his chance, on the grand stage, to apologize to the victims’ families or show some remorse for what happened.

"Ray’s a man’s man," Modell said. "He was mishandled. He was innocent. He’s taken a bad rap and he responded on the field, which is the place he knows best."

More willing to talk was Collins, a recovering alcoholic who has overcome his problems to play in the Super Bowl. But his date on the biggest stage was lacking. The Ravens defense suffocated him at every point and he left the field with a bruised shoulder and a sore ego.

His counterpart, Trent Dilfer, once played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the same stadium where he won the Super Bowl. He was a disappointment in Tampa, but left this time in a much different light.

"I think more than anything else, this was a matter of faith and perseverance," Dilfer said.

The Super Bowl returned to Tampa for the first time since the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills in 1991, when the Gulf War was raging and security was high.

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