By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens won their first and only Super Bowl Championship 13 years ago. There was no Joe Flacco. There was no Ray Rice. Instead, they possessed arguably the greatest defense of all-time. Led by Ray Lewis, the Ravens’ defense in 2000 set the record for least amount of points (165) in a single season. Their defense had no weakness. Opposing offenses could neither run nor pass against the unit. The defense was one of the few in recent history where they dictated what the offense did; not the other way around.
The defense was championship caliber, but the offense left a lot to be desired. They did have a great running back in Jamal Lewis. They did have decent receivers in Qadry Ismail and Brandon Stokley. Their tight end Shannon Sharpe is now a Hall of Famer. But they lacked production from the quarterback position in the early portions of the season.
Tony Banks started at quarterback for the Ravens when the 2000 season began. They began the season with a 3-1 record. But things began turning south for the young franchise and Brian Billick would be forced to make a change at the position. Trent Dilfer didn’t have the necessary skill set to be a franchise quarterback. But with a stout defense and a potent running game, the Ravens wouldn’t need one.
To guarantee victory, all the Ravens asked is that he not turn the ball over. Manage the game and score if the opportunity presents itself. If the offense could score one or two touchdowns, they couldn’t lose – they didn’t lose. Baltimore wouldn’t lose another game in the regular season after the change at quarterback. For the first time in history, the Ravens were heading to the postseason.
Their first game was against the Denver Broncos. The defense demolished the Broncos 21-3 and advanced to the divisional round. Similar to this year, nobody gave Baltimore a chance to make it past the second round. They were up against the Tennessee Titans. Many perceived them to be the best team in the AFC. But Baltimore would not be denied. Their defense was too good. Ray Lewis would seal an AFC Championship berth with an interception return for a touchdown. The Ravens went to Oakland to battle Rich Gannon and the Raiders. Shannon Sharpe 96 yard touchdown pass was one of the few highlights on the offensive side of the ball that year. The defense smothered the Raiders offense and knocked Rich Gannon out of the game. The Ravens won 16-3 to earn their first trip to the Super Bowl.
Similar to this season, it was the two weeks leading up the Super Bowl that Baltimore finally earned some respect. But the respect was overshadowed by the press involving Ray Lewis’ murder trial a year ago. It became more about his past than about his performance on the field. His public image was scarred, and it would take years for him to recover. The process started with a great performance in the Super Bowl.
The Ravens defense smothered the New York Giants in January of 2001. The Giants only score came in a kick return late in the game. The Ravens would be World Champions; Ray Lewis the MVP. The confetti fell for the first time in Ravens history.
Ray Lewis and the city of Baltimore have waited 13 years for another shot at immortality, and for the time being, it appears as though history may be about to repeat itself.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.