SUPER BOWL XXXV RUNNER UP 2000 NEW YORK GIANTS

Remember as Super Bowl XLVIII was approaching and the apprehension for a cold weather Super Bowl in New York?? What happened the last time there was a game played in late January in the Meadowlands?

xxxv1New York could hang their hat on the 2000 NFC Championship game…a 41-0 whoopin ‘ of the Minnesota Vikings in Dennis Green’s last game.  The first thing you’ll say is “Oh the Vikings only had 132 yards of offense!”  Gee that’s funny, but in the same weather Kerry Collins (who?) yeah Kerry Collins threw for an NFC Championship game record 5TDs in the game and was on fire from the word go.  He wasn’t throwing to Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Sterling Sharpe or Michael Irvin either…

Joe Jurevicius, Ike Hilliard, Amani Toomer, and FB Greg Comella (who?) Greg Comella!! Tiki Barber was used as a decoy.  So don’t make it seem like you can’t pass when the temperature goes down because these guys were the greatest show on grass for one game.

35.4They had been called the worst #1 seed ever going into the playoffs. After a 20-10 emotional win against the Eagles, they wandered into the NFC Championship game as a home underdog to the high flying Minnesota Vikings. When Offensive Co-Ordinator Sean Payton struck with this masterpiece:

A very stout Giant defense where MLB Michael “Bam Bam” Barrow joined with college teammate Jessie Armstead (The U ) to form an inspired bunch after coming over from Carolina.  Jason Sehorn and Dave Thomas (won with Cowboys in 93) were big physical corners…Strahan and Keith Hamilton were anchoring the line…and if you remember that Super Bowl against the Ravens, the Giants got jobbed when they called Hamilton for defensive holding negating Jessie Armstead’s interception for a touchdown that would have tied it at 7.

35.3This defense was stronger than the team that won in 2007, they just ran into the Ravens…but they crowned the up & coming Eagles and Vikings to get there.  As for playing a Super Bowl in the elements?  Buck up and go do it…it’s been done before so don’t make any excuses!!

This is a forgotten champion in New York’s history.

SUPER BOWL XXXV CHAMPION 2000 BALTIMORE RAVENS

One of The Chancellor of Football’s all time favorite teams!

35mainRay Lewis (The U) was most valuable player in a defensive game for the ages 34-7 over the NY Giants.  Ravens allowed 165 points for the season and would have won more if they would have stayed with a 4-3 defense and kept Trent Dilfer in 2001…yet I digress

What was crazy about this was the team meeting at the beginning of the offseason where Billick had Jim Brown talking to the team and he pulled Ray Lewis up.  Ray proceeded to address the team and told them he saw them winning the Super Bowl in a vision during his tumultuous off-season.  He gave an impassioned talk, in a grey t shirt and wearing a fishing hat, to his team of the need to be great and that he had to fulfill that prophecy in getting to Tampa. Wow!

Consider this is a team that had never been to the playoffs to that point. Not even close in their first 4 yrs from being borne of the Cleveland Brown ashes. Art Modell (Red Right ’88 /The Drive/ The Fumble) was supposed to be snake bitten. He carried the baggage of all the heartache from Cleveland playoff meltdowns.

35sideBoth Trent Dilfer and Tony Banks, the teams QBs, were cast off from other teams.  This was a true free agency Super Bowl champion with players who brought any real playoff experience was limited. Corey Harris (couple with Packers early 90s), Tony Siragusa (95 Colts run), Rod Woodson (mid 90s Steelers), Dilfer (97 Bucs/injured for 99) and the only player on the team I can think of with a Super Bowl ring was backup WR and special teamer Billy Davis (95 Cowboys)!! And head coach Brian Billick had been hired for his offensive acumen after leading the 1998 Minnesota Vikings to the NFL record of 556 points in a season.

The Chancellor of Football loved watching this team win it all because they did one thing…understood who they were and stayed with that belief.  I get so sick of teams copying “oh we’re running the west coast offense” blah blah blah…blow me! Develop who you are and game plan based on your personnel!! Defeat someone with something different than playing their same playbook!!

This team didn’t have the Vikings fleet receivers that Billick had in Minnesota, nor the quarterbacks. They learned early on “Hey we’re a running team and we have to play good defense and keep the score down.” Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa plug up the guard/center/guard and allow Sugar Ray (did I mention he’s from The U) to roam tackle to tackle and smash, Jamie Sharper smacking TEs…yikes!  Was there a better CB tandem on a Super Bowl champion than Starks and McAllister? Really? Woodson and Kim Herring were great as a tandem.  There just were no holes!

If they were still playing Super Bowl XXXV (15 yrs later) I still don’t think the Giants would have scored a touchdown yet on offense. By the time they reached the Super Bowl it was too late to derail them. It was facing the defending AFC Champions in Tennessee is where many experts thought would be an issue.

By the way… Tom Jackson took Tennessee that day on NFL Countdown… don’t let him fool you

It was beyond too late when they made the AFC Championship in Oakland as well

To watch them bludgeon their way to the Super Bowl was artful. I remember betting 3 friends at Fullerton Dodge that in the AFC championship that not only would the Ravens win, but they’d be the first team since 1970 to hold the host team without scoring a TD in their own stadium.  I won both bets! Lional Dalton claims I owe him money plus interest and it shut up Raider fans…Andre Rison pushed off and it was offensive pass interference.

35logoStrong team, strong character, and staying the course are what this team taught.  Even had a string of 22 quarters or so without an offensive touchdown…just keep going!

2000 Baltimore Ravens-powerful Super Bowl champion!

SUPER BOWL XXXIV RUNNER UP 1999 TENNESSEE TITANS

The Jacksonville Jaguars were well on their way to achieving a Super Bowl as a part of their 5 yr plan from expansion. An upset win over Denver in the 96 playoffs was the launching pad and after a few roster improvements were ready to do it in 1999!! They were loaded and would steamroll…*huh?*…I’m supposed to be talkin’ about who?*…alright tell Eddie George I’ll call him back…*ahem*

titans_championship_afc_ringWell everything was going according to plan when they traveled north to play their rivals Tennessee Titans with a lot on the line in a week 15 match-up. With the chance to gain homefield advantage, cement that they were the dominant team in the AFC Central (South not created yet), and with only 169 points given up were within striking distance of  the NFL record of 187 points given up by the ’86 Bears.

Man what an asswhoopin’!! The Tennessee Titans lit into them like the Jaguars had stolen something from their mother’s house. A 41-14 destruction that ruined the psyche of the Jacksonville franchise while sending a clear message that Tennesse would be a force themselves come playoff time, but surely they wouldn’t see them again…would they??

Oh the agony when I see this ring being a Buffalo fan…sigh   The Music City Miracle was a damn forward lateral…yet I digress. **deep breaths** ahem… where was I?

Ahh yes the 1999 AFC Champion Tennessee Titans.  This team totally derailed the Jacksonville Jaguar franchise.

Although they finished with a 13-3 record, they were the wildcard behind the AFC Central champion Jaguars at 14-2. The two best records ever for two teams in the same division which came with a unique twist: Although the Jaguars lost only 2 games all year, they were both to Tennessee. The Titans finally had a home they could call their own after 3 yrs of wandering the desert once they left the Houston Astrodome in moving to Nashville.

34titan2The Titans were powered on offense by Eddie George from Ohio St. who bludgeoned defenders with his running style for over 1,300 yards.  Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews & John Runyan were leaders on a very physical line.  The late Steve McNair was a developing quarterback who had his struggles in 1999 but was a legitimate running threat himself. In that 41-14 thrashing he threw for 5 of his 12 TDs for the season. He had a short to intermediate passing game that complimented their running game.

However the story of this team was defense. Led by Blaine Bishop at SS, Barron Wortham LB, Marcus Robertson FS, and who could forget the rookie season of Jevon “The Freak” Kearse DE, who set the league record for sacks as a rookie with 13 1/2.  This team came off the ball with a physicality the AFC hadn’t seen since the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in the 90s.

Going into the ’99 playoffs there was a changing of the guard.  Gone were the two time champion Broncos and with the upstart Colts in the playoffs there was an air of parity on the AFC side of the ledger. The Titans first step was the wildcard tilt over Buffalo at home. Behind with :22 left and the Bills having just pulled ahead 16-15…*I can get thru this*…. then the kickoff where Frank Wycheck throws the ball across field to Kevin Dyson who takes it to the endzone with :08 seconds left.

34logoIt was a miracle finish of epic proportions and the energy and momentum sent the Titans hurtling through the heavens where they took down the favored Colts in Indianapolis the following week.  Which earned the Titans an all expenses paid trip to Jacksonville for the AFC Championship Game. Even though they ran over Miami 62-7 in the playoffs, they were still fearful of Tennessee.

No way the Titans could come in and outhit them again.  Well by virtue of a 30-14 thrashing.  The Titans owned the Jaguars who were never the same after that ’99 Championship.

Now we know they go on to play a competitive Super Bowl against the Rams and came up one yard short but don’t forget that injuries are a part of the game.  The Titans lost FS Marcus Robertson to injury in the AFC Championship Game after a 1st half interception, and Blaine Bishop SS fell to an injury in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl.  Why am I bringing this up??  Kurt Warner’s 73yd touchdown to Isaac Bruce to pull ahead of the Titans 23-16 was his ONLY completion of the 4th quarter, and it was thrown on TWO backup safeties in Perry Phoenix and Anthony Dorsett.

McNair, in a display of immense heart, willed the Titans downfield on a last second drive to bring Super Bowl XXXIV to a crescendo. On the last play with :07 left from the 10, McNair hit Kevin Dyson hoping for another miracle finish. This time Ram Linebacker Mike Jones brought down an outstretched Dyson at the 1 as time ran out.

So did they come up a yard short or a few injuries short??

This is the jewel for their fine season….and it WAS a forward lateral….*sigh*

This article is dedicated to the memories of Steve McNair and owner Bud Adams.

SUPER BOWL XXXIV CHAMPION 1999 ST LOUIS RAMS: One of the greatest of NFL champions

Wanna hear a strange fact? In week 3 of the 1999 season the Bengals hosted the Rams and these teams were tied for the most losses in the NFL for the 1990’s.  This game was a tiebreaker that the Bengals lost and “won” the title of the losingest team of the decade…the Rams …uh…well…they went in a different direction..

xxxivThe 1999 St Louis Rams…one of the best teams in history!  Greatest Show on turf!!  Everyone is so focused on the turnaround of this team that they don’t remember the feats performed during that year.  The NFL fan base was still reeling from the retirements of John Elway and Barry Sanders. The latter of the two we were used to serious moves and highlights since he was still at the height of his greatness just 2 years removed from his 2,000 yd season….enter Marshall Faulk.

I followed the trade from the Colts as “wow what’s going to happen to him?” yet had a feeling it was football karma’s reversing the Eric Dickerson trade.  You knew history would judge the Colts decision between what happened between he, and Edgerrin James.  The Rams won. Marshall replaced Barry Sanders as the league’s highlight reel and played his way into the Hall of Fame with 60TDs in 3 years, won 3 Offensive Player of the Year awards, and an NFL MVP in 2000.  Oh, I almost forgot 2 Super Bowl appearances and this championship.

So the ’99 Rams explode onto the scene and compile a 13-3 record:

  1. This team’s AVERAGE MARGIN of victory at home (YES 8-0) was a whopping 25 points a game during the regular season…Yikes!! Get this, of a possible 480 minutes in 8 home games; they were only behind for 4:24 seconds of it.
  2. Had the 6th best defense in the league with the leading sack artist in Kevin Carter with 17. Led the league with 8 defensive touchdowns that year and was #1 against the run!!!

*** IT WAS 2000 WHEN THEY HAD DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS…NOT 1999! ***

  1. Had the best kick return team in the league with Tony Horne taking 2 KO TDs back & Az-Zahir Hakim taking back a punt for a TD

xxxiv1CONSIDER THIS BEFORE

  1. Kurt Warner threw for 4,300 yards (this generations Johnny U) & became the story of the league and became the second quarterback in history to throw for more than 40 TDs with 41. This hadn’t been seen since 1986, although Brett Favre had thrown 39 in an MVP Super Bowl season, same here. Threw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and a 73 yard game winning score.
  2. marshallfaulkhall

    Marshall Faulk on Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

    Marshall Faulk’s ridiculous year where he became the second 1,000yd rusher/1,000yd receiver in the same season to join Roger Craig.  Craig had 1,050 yards rushing, & 1,016 yards receiving.  Marshall blew by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 receiving! And he sat out nearly 3 quarters in the last game at Philly and countless blowout 4th quarters!

  3. Broke Barry Sanders total yards from scrimmage record with2,429 yards from scrimmage…yikes!  Now, Chris Johnson broke Marshall’s record on a team that kept feeding him the ball, had Faulk not sat out 3qtrs of the last game in Philadelphia where the Rams still scored 31.  Nor sat out several blowout 4th quarters, how high would Faulk have REALLY PUSHED THIS RECORD??
  4. The Rams were #1 in offense, #1 in scoring and the highest scoring league champion ever with 526 points.

 

* They would become the first team ever to score 500 pts in multiple seasons with 3 straight. In doing so became the highest scoring team ever over a 3 year period averaging 32 points per game.*

xxxiv3The turnaround can be attributed to Dick Vermeil’s adjusting to the practice habits of modern coaching.  He stopped overworking his team before the 1999 season after two underwhelming seasons in St. Louis.  He learned from other coaches and had a staff of Mike White, Jim Hanifan, and Al Saunders who were all NFL former head coaches.

That’s before bringing up offensive coordinator Mike Martz who would become the Ram’s coach in 2000 replacing Vermeil. That’s a staff of FIVE NFL Head Coaches!! They honed the Rams lethal speed into a precise machine that the NFL hadn’t seen before in a league champion. Defenses feared going into the Trans World Dome. It was great to see Vermeil be rewarded for taking a new approach.

pace-hall-speech

The Chancellor met Dick Vermeil before the ceremony and how close I was to witness Orlando Pace’s induction.

This 1999 team was a one of a kind meteor that was one of the best in NFL history for a season…more potent than any 80’s 49er team, more spectacular blowouts than the 70s Steelers teams.  They rank up with the 1985 Bears, 1972 Dolphins, and 1994 49ers as one of the most dominant teams in history for one season.  Just look at the numbers!!!!

 

SUPER BOWL XXXIII RUNNER UP 1998 ATLANTA FALCONS

What a ride….What a nice ring too!!  Some teams are like machinery that keep chugging along and others are like comets…not to be seen again.  This 1998 Atlanta Falcon team was not a comet, however they did get in the way of one.

xxxiii11Were they one of the best that didn’t win a Super Bowl?  It’s debatable. The Falcons rode a workhorse in Jamaal Anderson and channeled a “win one for the Gipper” emotion after Dan Reeves open heart surgery, to make the most magical season happen in Falcon history.  To go from 7-9 in 1997 to 14-2 in 98 was quite an accomplishment.  In taking down the Minnesota Vikings 30-27 in overtime for the NFC Championship, they are seen as pulling off a monumental upset when if you look at the tale of the tape, maybe it wasn’t such a big upset after all.

Upon further review, the 1998 NFC Championship pitted the best records EVER to meet for a conference title. The Minnesota Vikings at 15-1 were hosting the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons in the Metrodome. The combined 29-3 records was equaled in 2004 by the Patriots and Steelers. The Vikings were the sexier team since they broke the scoring record (556 pts. breaking Redskins record of 541) which included Randy Moss’ electrifying rookie season with 1300 yards and 17 TDs. Couple this with NFL Comeback Player of the Year in MVP Randall Cunningham. Add future Hall of Famer Cris Carter, HOF John Randle and Robert Griffith (All Pro Safety) wow…the Vikings were a meteor.

xxxiii8Yet you have to understand where the spirit of the Atlanta Falcons came from.  To do that let me welcome you to “The Second Chance Saloon”.  All the principles of this football team were retreads that were unsuccessful at becoming a champion elsewhere yet combined with others in the same position, & melded into a tremendous fighting force.

First you had Chris Chandler, a career journeyman who played for 5 teams before landing in Atlanta.  Outside linebacker Cornelius Bennett, who had been a pro bowl player and perennial Super Bowl runner up with the Buffalo Bills, found new life in Atlanta once his tenure ended with the Bills.  Wide receivers Tony Martin (66 rec. 1,181 yds  6 tds) and Terrence Mathis (64 rec. 1,136 yds 11 tds) were castoffs of the Chargers and Jets respectively.  Martin was the deep threat that scored the deciding touchdown in the Charger’s 94 AFC Championship win over Pittsburgh. Mathis was a serviceable 3rd receiver for the Jets who finally became a starter in Atlanta.

Morten Anderson the Saints all time leading scorer.  Ray Buchanon, the cornerback who had spearheaded the ’95 Colts run to the AFC Championship, came along with his spirited attitude along with Colt teammate CB Ashley Ambrose. Eugene Robinson the veteran safety had played in the last two Super Bowl seasons with Green Bay was a steadying force at FS.

Rich Brooks the former St. Louis Rams coach who replaced Reeves as the interim coach during his time away recovering from heart surgery. Reeves? Well…

The casual football fan will remember Reeves as coach of the Denver Broncos for most of John Elway’s career. He had come from the Tom Landry coaching tree after his playing days with the Dallas Cowboys. After failing to win it all in 3 attempts with the Denver Broncos the team took a new direction in 1993. His former QB Coach then Offensive Co-ordinator was Mike Shanahan.

xxxiii15The Falcons rode a bruising running game by Jamal Anderson, who had over 1,700 rushing yards that year, to bludgeon defenses.  Chris Chandler played efficiently, new deep threat Tony Martin coupled with Clarence Mathis to form a complete offense.  They were more steady than spectacular.

As many sporting events and teams go…emotion and playing for a cause greater than themselves propelled them into the playoffs where they ran into Minnesota and one team HAD to lose.

The most important play of the game came during the late 2nd quarter when the high flying Vikings got too greedy. Up 20-7 the Vikings, at their own 20 with just seconds left in the first half, decided to come out passing. Chuck Smith had a sack and forced fumble that kept the Falcons within striking distance at the half, down 20-14. The Falcons would go on to win 30-27 in OT

Two great stories approached the 1998 NFC Championship Game with the winner to take on the defending champion Denver Broncos, in Super Bowl XXXIII.  One of the greatest NFC Championship games took place and an upset that may have kept a sexier matchup of high powered offenses from meeting in the Super Bowl but wasn’t as big an upset as others make it out to be.

 

SUPER BOWL XXXIII CHAMPIONSHIP 1998 DENVER BRONCOS

Talk about a curtain call.  How many of us had a former boss that we wanted to show them what we were about??  Super Bowl XXXIII was John Elway’s last game and it came courtesy of Dan Reeves…yikes.

xxxiii12I still thought the 98 Vikings were the best team that year but guess what?  History doesn’t care what The Chancellor thinks so after a 34-19 win over the Falcons; this was the crowning jewel for becoming back to back champions! And just like what happened with the early 90’s Cowboys we’re left with the glut of never ending questions when we’re drinking and talking football…”Would they have three-peated if___?”  In this instance had John Elway come back….would they have?  Well that wasn’t rhetorical, what do you think?

xxxiii3After 36 seasons and 4 other failed Super Bowl appearances the Broncos were champions.  Elway was now a champion and didn’t have to answer those questions anymore.  The organization, city, everyone celebrated the triumph in XXXII over the Packers. They were supremely ripe for a letdown.  Yet once the press conference to announce Elway’s return for his 16th season came, it seemed like the Broncos would be a good defending champion.  Who knew they would go on to be one of the strongest ever??

They leaned on their celebrated running game that had matured thru the previous post season.  Terrell Davis came into 1998 running strong. The Achilles heel from the season before was stopping the run, the best thing to do was to get an early lead and impose your running game on your opponent while forcing them to pass.  The Broncos did this with great aplomb as Davis became the first 2,000 yard rusher in the AFC since OJ Simpson in 1973.

So the Broncos went from defending champion to a team that threatened to run through the season undefeated.  The champagne on ice the ’72 Dolphins put away until the last team loses was ice cold as the Broncos raced out to a 13-0 record.  There was a strange feeling when the Broncos entered Giants Stadium during that 14th game. They had already wrapped up the AFC West Division where they had been a wildcard entrant the year before.

For the first time in the latter half of 1998, Denver faced a team that was not intimidated by them.  The Giants pulled off the upset when Kent Graham hit Amani Toomer with a late game touchdown 20-16.  The dream of the undefeated season had melted away, and after a Monday night loss to the Dolphins, there was concern the Broncos had lost their edge.  The playoffs beckoned yet Shanahan started resting his players. Countenance turned to anguish as some Denver fans remembered the ’96 finish and upset to the Jaguars at home in the playoffs.

xxxiii15Uh….well Denver faithful didn’t need to worry.  Something about that embarrassing loss brought the fire out of the Broncos who ran roughshod over the Jags 42-14.  Next up were the Cinderella New York Jets, who came in with Bill Parcells trying to become the first coach to take 3 teams to the Super Bowl.  In Elway’s last game at Mile High Stadium they prevailed 23-10 in a defensive struggle.

Next up, Super Bowl XXXIII and an old ally in former coach Dan Reeves.  In the end, Elway threw for 336 yards in an MVP performance in his last game.  Elway retired 4 months later and left us to ask that proverbial question…Would they have three-peated had Elway played another year??

What do you think??