NFL.Com Bracketology: 2000 Baltimore Ravens v. 2001 New England Patriots

Ray Lewis being introduced before Super Bowl XXXV. Calm before the storm?

If they were STILL playing Super Bowl XXXV, the New York Giants STILL wouldn’t have a touchdown against the Ravens defense. The 2001 Patriots were a hodge podge group of old grizzled veterans and a young holdover quarterback who performed admirably with a short passing game. Needless to say if they were to play back then, he isn’t the Tom Brady we know now of the 50TD passing season and 3 Super Bowl championships.

You have to take him as a new quarterback who played a layman game in Super Bowl XXXVI. He only threw for about 180 yards and his passes were mainly to running backs on that last drive. Against the Ravens formidable rush Super Bowl MVP and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, would have made life miserable for journeyman RB Antoine Smith. The same circle routes out of the backfield that nearly got Tiki Barber beaten into oblivion in XXXVI would have had the same effect against Lewis and Jamie Sharper.

An unlikely hero emerged in the Super Bowl XXXVI upset in Patriot QB Tom Brady.

The Ravens were #1 against the run (best in history allowing 970 yds) and were stout up front with Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. Lewis roaming free would have tipped or intercepted intermediate routes where Patriot WR Troy Brown, David Patten, and Charles Johnson couldn’t get deep. Duane Starks (The [[_]]) and Chris McAlister teamed to form the most underrated CB tandem in the Super Bowl era. They along with Safeties Ken Herring and Hall of famer Rod Woodson would have picked off at least 5 passes.

After all in Super Bowl XXXV, they were able to pick off Kerry Collins who had just tied the NFC Championship record with 4TD passes and 5 overall in a 41-0 trouncing of Minnesota. In all actuality the 2001 Patriots had two lucky breaks happen for them. The first was “The Tuck Rule” which was one of the worst calls in NFL history that demoralized the The Oakland Raiders. The second came when in preparation for the AFC Championship, Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis in trying to come back from a hamstring injury, took a painkilling shot that struck a nerve in his leg…rendering him ineffective for the game. Without their running game the Steelers fell 21-17.

Yet had these two played on full strength, the Steelers were the better team. The Patriots had situational substitute veterans in LB Bryan Cox, LB Roman Phifer, NB Terrell Buckley, DB Terrance Shaw, and a soon to be famous ex Steeler in LB Mike Vrabel that they still would have confused Trent Dilfer into a few interceptions.

However the 1-2 punch of Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis would have overpowered the Patriots by not allowing them to sub. That would open up the play action pass to Quadry Ismail, and Brandon Stokely once they substituted and crowded the line. This was the only pass that Trent Dilfer through well was the deep up routes. At the height of Baltimore’s defensive power and against a QB making about his 13th start in Brady…the Ravens would shut them out 23-0. Lots of punts in this game…

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