How the Ravens’ historic protection fueled their first Super Bowl win

Editor’s be aware: The subsequent installment in ESPN’s 30 for 30 sequence, “Bullies of Baltimore,” is about to debut Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The movie will probably be made out there on ESPN+ instantly after its premiere. This piece initially ran in 2021, on the twentieth anniversary of the Ravens’ first Super Bowl title. Since the piece initially ran, former Ravens defensive sort out Tony Siragusa, who was a pacesetter of the Super Bowl workforce, died on the age of 55.

BALTIMORE — Jan. 28, 2001, will ceaselessly characterize coronation day for the Baltimore Ravens’ protection.

In the minds of Ravens gamers, their 34-7 overcome the New York Giants in Super 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 means — in information, within the postseason, and because the gamers proudly extoll, in perspective.

Known 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 identification was solid by 11 bullies on protection who weren’t simply bent on shutting out groups. They needed to punish you with each drive-you-in-the-turf sack and swarming gang sort out behind the road of scrimmage.

Their NFL information for fewest factors (165) and dashing 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 precipitated jaws to drop at a file price as effectively, although the NFL does not precisely hold observe of that.

The Ravens trash-talked operating backs and even an opposing proprietor. They flipped the center finger on the Black Hole in Oakland earlier than the AFC Championship Game. Heading into the Super 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 way of the season, the routine of discussing the defensive recreation plan earlier than video games had ended within the locker room.

“We didn’t really care about that anymore,” former Ravens defensive sort out Tony Siragusa recalled. “It was more about: What dance are we going to do when we get an interception? We’re not even talking about the game because we knew we were that good. We’re practicing ‘the grenade,’ where one guy throws the ball up in the air and everyone falls back. I was like, this is really messed up, 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 shaped 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. In 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 top of the season, Baltimore ranked first in a half-dozen defensive classes. However, the one approach to get talked about in the identical breath as Chicago’s Monsters of the Midway and Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain was to win a championship.

In the Super Bowl, the Ravens pressured 5 turnovers, sacked Kerry Collins 4 instances and returned an interception for a landing.

“I would say it’s the best one-year defense in NFL history,” Sharper mentioned. “They’ll compare us to the Steelers defenses who ran for almost a decade and they’ll compare us to the Chicago Bears defense who didn’t have free agency back in those days either. So, it’s the best one-year defense definitely and it’s shown by the stats we have still.”

Here is the story of how the Ravens’ protection etched itself into NFL historical past 20 years in the past, as advised by the individuals who lived it:

‘Tap 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 37-0 win over the Bengals in Week 4, when the Ravens precipitated Pro Bowl operating again Corey Dillon to give up after being held to 9 yards dashing 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 defensive line stunt. Siragusa came across my face and took the guard with him. If you do it successfully, the guard is still stuck on Siragusa trying to pass him off to the tackle. So I came clean. And literally when Corey was handed the ball, I hit him. He had been hit so many times throughout that game behind the line of scrimmage, he’d just had enough. He was like, ‘This is ridiculous. What am I doing?’ That was like, wow.”

Read also  Can Jimmy Garoppolo unlock big-play potential of Raiders offense?

Sharper: “We couldn’t believe that he wasn’t out there. We thought that he was hurt, but then we heard from some other guys that he just didn’t want to go back in the game because he was getting hit so much. It was kind of shocking to see that, but we definitely intimidated some running backs. That’s when you knew that we had a great defense: When a running back says, ‘All right, I’m not going back in the game anymore. I’m not taking these hits.'”

Woodson: “Corey is an outstanding player. We started hitting him. Ray’s hitting him. Jamie Sharper’s hitting him. Big Goose and Sam Adams are hitting him. We’re getting in our licks in the secondary. After a while, you just tap that hat. That was our motto. We’re going to come downhill. We’re going to hit you in the first quarter, second quarter and third quarter. Can you take it in the fourth quarter? Do you give up the football or do you fight?”

Solidified by drought

The Ravens went 0-for-October, failing to attain a landing the whole 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, in reality, helped the Ravens win two video games throughout that stretch. For Baltimore, it is the place a Super Bowl workforce was galvanized.

Boulware: “We had a streak where we didn’t even score a touchdown, and I remember sitting in our defensive meeting room. We were maybe giving up nine or 12 points and [defensive coordinator] Marvin [Lewis] really cussing us out, saying, ‘Look, we’ve got to find ways to score, and we’ve got to do better than that.’ And I was like, ‘Man, we’re pretty dang good to be holding these teams to where we are, but now our mindset as a defense is not only are we gonna hold people to scoring nothing.’ That was a realization that we’ve got something special going on our side of the ball.”

Trent Dilfer: “[After taking over for Tony Banks as the Ravens quarterback in Week 9], we were in the field house after practice and Ray came over to me and we were just talking, probably cutting up like we always did, and he goes, ‘Yeah, but you saw that last week, right? You saw that nobody can score on us.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, no kidding.’ Ray goes, ‘No, no, no. You’re the guy. You get it. Let’s just all play together. If we all play together, we’ll never be beat.’ It just hit me. They’re not just good, they’re great. And he’s right. It just kind of made sense to me that you put the egos behind us. Put the stats and all that crap behind us. If this is about winning 3-0, then I’m good with that. Let’s make sure we don’t screw it up.”

Woodson: “[After the touchdown drought] every Friday, we would go with [tight end] Shannon [Sharpe] to the sauna and the cold tub together. We used to go up to Shannon and ask him: How many points are you going to give us this week? He would say, ‘We got 13.’ We’re like: ‘If you give us 13, we’re good. We’re going to win.’ His points were always close.”

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. As the groups ready for the opening kickoff, the Titans ran a montage on the stadium video board entitled “A special 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 in regards to the Titans.

Billick*: “We get there and they run on the scoreboard all the [s—] that we were saying, and a lot of it was the stupid [s—] I was saying. The thing I do remember is I’m looking up and going, ‘OK, OK, it’s on.’ And Goose walks by me and says, ‘We got you, Coach.’ Then, [the Titans] go the length of the field [for a touchdown on the opening drive] and I go, ‘Uh, we got to rethink this.'”

Read also  DA drops home violence case towards ex-Texas coach Chris Beard

Ray Lewis*: “They put a nice game plan together. Look, this team knew us very well. They hit us with some bootlegs early and [Titans quarterback Steve] McNair made a couple of plays. I’ll never forget when Rod made a play on [Titans running back] Eddie George and he got up and put his hands up. I told him, ‘You know what, they’re here for a fight. They really want to fight.’ Coming off to the sideline, I looked at coach [Billick] and he was shouting, ‘Ray, Ray.’ I told him, ‘Not right now. Not right now.'”

Billick*: “I made a hard left at the Gatorade and said, ‘OK, Ray’s got it. I’m going to stay out of the way.’ It worked out OK.”

Sam Adams: “[The Titans] came out with more energy than us, they executed and they were ready. They wanted to prove that they were men. Well, guess what? It takes 60 minutes to prove that and not one drive.”

The Ravens beat the Titans 24-10 and did not quit one other offensive landing within the ultimate 112 minutes, 43 seconds of postseason play.

Revenge within the Black Hole

The Ravens reached the AFC Championship Game in Oakland, the place Siragusa made a free-agent go to in 1997.

Siragusa: “[Raiders owner] Al Davis brings me in, and first of all, he sleeps ’til noon, so you’ve got to meet with him in the afternoon. They bring me out there and they say, ‘We’re going to offer you this much money.’ So, being the person that I am, I knew that the tax situation was really bad in California. I wanted to talk to my accountants because [Davis] was offering me a little bit more [than the Ravens], but it wasn’t enough more. So I go in the next day and I say I figured it out, and he’s like, ‘Well, Tony, every day is a new day.’ And I was like, really? He goes, ‘I’m going to have to offer you $50,000 less than I offered you yesterday.’ I told him to give me my plane ticket. [F—] you. And I leave.”

Fast ahead 4 years later, when Siragusa and the Ravens’ protection have been pitted in opposition to All-Pro quarterback Rich 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 were messing with Goose that he hadn’t had a sack in 20 years, so he had to jump on him again just to make sure. But what a big play because that is not an easy play for a big man like that. When you come all by yourself and it’s just you and the quarterback, usually the quarterback can escape the big men. People think that’s an easy tackle but that’s an extremely difficult tackle to make.”

Boulware: “I remember when Goose did that, I looked at Gannon and he didn’t get up. In my mind, I’m like, ‘We are going to win, we are going to the Super Bowl. You can buy your tickets to Tampa right now.’ And everybody on the whole defense, we were thinking the same thing. This thing is over.”

Siragusa: “I didn’t want to hurt [Gannon], but I wanted to act like a Raider a little bit in a Ravens uniform. Just a couple cheap shots wouldn’t be too bad. As I’m walking off the field — we just beat the Raiders and we’re going to the Super Bowl — I see Al Davis in the tunnel. I walk up to him and I go, ‘Hey Al, how you doing? Good thing you saved that $50 grand, [a–hole].’ I walked right by him and into the locker room.”

Super confidence

The Ravens confronted the top-seeded New York Giants, who routed the Minnesota Vikings 41-0 within the NFC Championship Game. Baltimore wasn’t impressed.

Woodson: “This is the God’s honest truth, when we looked at the New York Giants’ video of the first game that we watched of them, we were like, ‘They’re not going to beat us.’ I think we saw a half of that game — and that was their best game — and I was like, ‘We’re way better than that.’ We knew we were going to win the game. We didn’t’ know by how much. We did challenge ourselves: They’re not going to get across the 50. I think they got across the 50 twice [the Giants never got closer than 29 yards from the end zone the whole game].”

Read also  D'Angelo Russell sparks Lakers to comeback win over Raptors

Adams: “You know, I don’t think people have the gumption to feel like it’s supposed to happen. I remember in the Super Bowl when we scored that first touchdown early in the first quarter [Dilfer’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley], the defense was going crazy on the sideline because I remember saying, ‘The game is over. We just won the Super Bowl.’ Because all we needed was one touchdown. All we needed was one score. And that’s how we felt. We shut them out. They didn’t score in the Super Bowl either.”

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 were mad. We wanted to have the first shutout in Super Bowl history. So we were upset. Even though it didn’t go against us, it goes against us. That was a little upsetting that the return was going to go against us.”

Boulware: “My biggest memory of the Super Bowl was this is probably one of the easiest games that we played all year. That was a complete blowout. Going down to Tennessee, that was tough. It was kind of rough getting through Oakland. We beat the Giants 34-7.”

It was not really easy for McCrary.

McCrary: “I hit [Giants running back Tiki Barber] in the ribs trying to get the ball out and my hand ricochets and hits Rod Woodson’s helmet. I look down at my hand and it’s like the size of three hands. I got inside the tunnel with Bill Tessendorf, the trainer, and they peel the glove off. A bone is sticking through the knuckle and it is just shattered all in there. He looks at me and said, ‘Mike, you played a hell of a game.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, hell no. We’ve got two other quarters to go.’ They wrapped it up in the cast. I went out there, got a sack and forced fumble the next play at the Giants’ 1-yard line. So yeah, I finished the game with that cast on. But it shattered into 28 pieces. The doctor told me after surgery, he’s like ‘Yeah, you got lucky. I guess no one told you we thought we were going to have to amputate your finger.’ We narrowly escaped that. So I can’t use my [right index] finger, but I don’t need it. It just sits there.”

Special bond

On the day of the Super Bowl, Siragusa confirmed up on the stadium six hours earlier than everybody else as a result of he was stuffed with adrenaline. He flipped by way of the sport program and noticed an image of all the completely different Super Bowl rings. He minimize it out and caught that web page in everybody’s locker. If the Ravens acquired that ring, they might be collectively for the remainder of their lives as a result of the group would deliver again the group that gained the primary Super Bowl. He was proper — the Ravens will maintain a digital 20-year reunion in 2021.

Sharper: “The lasting memory for myself would be how much of a family we were. The first two years, I lived right beside Tony Siragusa and I was a single guy out of college. Peter Boulware stayed in my townhome for a little bit. I would go over to Siragusa’s house and his wife would cook food for me just because she knew I didn’t have anybody to cook for me. I’d go over there and eat. My favorite was wedding soup.”

Adams: “We all had our quirks and different personalities that clashed. But I would die for Tony Siragusa, Michael McCrary and Ray Lewis. Our bond is what made us special.”

McCrary: “When I talk to the guys, it seems like all of this happened yesterday. The mindset, the hard work and the teamwork, it’s carried me through everything I’ve done the rest of my life.”

* — From Ravens