|Purple Power is Super!|
Super Bowl XXXV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida was billed as a showdown between two of the best defenses in the NFL. The contest featured the New York Giants in their third trip to the Super Bowl, against the Baltimore Ravens, the old Cleveland Browns of Art Modell, in their first one.
Baltimore quarterback Trent Dilfer was returning home to a city he was practically thrown out of last season, and Giants' quarterback Kerry Collins was returning to resurrect a career that almost died due to off-field problems.
The biggest spotlight of the day was on Baltimore's Ray Lewis. The 25-year old linebacker, who has not been able to divert attention away from his off-season problems, responded to that spotlight by putting in an MVP performance.
The game itself started as predicted. The Ravens showed what they had on their minds early in the game, as Rob Burnett sacked Collins just two minutes into the game. The Giants' defense kept pace and the first four possessions of the game quickly became punting situations as these two teams settled into a game of field position.
The Ravens' offense was the first to come up with a big play when Dilfer hit Brandon Stokely for 38 yards and a touchdown to put Baltimore up, 7-0. Stokley beat cornerback Jason Seahorn to get into the open and then dragged him across the goal line for the score.
Early in the second quarter, a Kerry Collins' pass was tipped by Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper picked the ball out of the air for the interception. Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Dilfer threw an interception to Jessie Armstead on the ensuing drive.
The Armstead interception may have been an early turning point for the Giants, but after returning the ball 42 yards for a touchdown, the play was called back because of a holding penalty on New York. The play could have tied the game at 7-7, but instead the Ravens tacked on a field goal to take a ten-point lead.
The Giants moved into scoring position late in the first half, but Collins tried to force a pass into double coverage with a minute left on the clock. Cornerback Chris Mcallister went up high to pick off the pass and put an end to the Giants' scoring threat.
It was still a close game late in the third quarter when the fireworks exploded. Collins, tying a Super Bowl record, threw his fourth interception with about four minutes left in the quarter. Duane Starks read a slant pattern perfectly and stepped in front of the pass before returning it 50 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens were up 17-0 and appeared to have a lock on the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ron Dixon took the ball up the left sideline, then back across the middle on his way to a 97-yard touchdown that pulled the score to within ten, and gave the Giants new life.
But that glimpse of hope was quickly squashed when Jermaine Lewis took the Giants' kickoff 84 yards for another touchdown, and a 24-7 lead. In a 36-second span, these two teams scored three touchdowns and recorded the first back-to-back kickoff returns for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
With the way the Ravens' defense was playing, a 17-point lead seemed insurmountable. And Jamal Lewis put the nail in the coffin with 8:45 remaining, when he put the tip of the football across the goal line before losing it.
Ray Lewis was named the game's Most Valuable Player, but it could have easily gone to Jermaine Lewis, Jamal Lewis, or maybe even defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.
Seriously though, the entire defensive unit of the Ravens deserved the award as they held the Giants' offense scoreless and allowed them just 152 total yards. They shut down the rushing attack of New York, and kept Collins off balance the whole game.
Baltimore's defense has been compared to some of the best of all time, and they proved to New York that they are worthy of that distinction. Whether or not they are the best defense of all time is debatable, but they were by far the best defense on the field Sunday when it counted. Final score: Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7