Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #2 2000 Baltimore Ravens

The bludgeoning Baltimore Ravens in 2000 was one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and lands at #2 on The Chancellor of Football’s list. Aside from winning Super Bowl XXXV, their greatest accomplishment was setting the record for fewest points allowed in a season with 165. Do you realize allowing 3, 10, and 3 in the AFC playoffs, that in 19 games they still bested the old 16 game record of the ’86 Bears 187 points with only 181?? Remember the Giants touchdown in Super Bowl XXXV was a kick return and not allowed by the defense. Still that is 188 points in 20 games!!

Ray Lewis' greatest season was the 2000 campaign.

Ray Lewis’ greatest season was the 2000 campaign.

To fully appreciate the Ravens season as a whole you have to understand how anemic an offense they carried. Their 16th ranked offense was the 2nd lowest of all Super Bowl champions.

For the season they were ranked 2nd overall allowing 247.9 yards per game. Yet #1 against the run setting the record for fewest yards allowed rushing in a 16 game season with only 970. Yielding a paltry 2.7 yds per carry when league average was 4.0. Baltimore held 11 of their 16 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. Four of which were shutouts. By the way, they also held all four of their postseason opponents to 10 or fewer for a total of 15!!

  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens allowed 970 yds rushing
  • 1985 Chicago Bears allowed 1,319 yds rushing
  • 1991 Philadelphia Eagles allowed 1,136 yds rushing
  • 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers allowed 1,457 yds rushing *14 games
  • 1977 Dallas Cowboys allowed 1,651 yds rushing *14 games
Boulware off the edge was a staple of Baltimore's pass rush.

Boulware off the edge was a staple of Baltimore’s pass rush.

This was a physically imposing defense that started with mountains in the middle in DTs Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams. Keeping blockers off 2000’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Ray Lewis. Who roamed free garnering 137 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception. It was one of the most dominating performances by a defensive player in league history. From The [[_]]

Fellow Linebackers Jamie Sharper (72 tackles /5 forced fumbles) and Peter Boulware clogged passing lanes, stuffed the run, and blitzed effectively. Boulware had 7 sacks as a Nickle rushing end. DE Rob Burnett led the team with (10.5 sacks) was a holdover from the Cleveland Browns days. He and fellow DE Michael McCrary were steady rushers that couldn’t be moved off the ball.

The most underappreciated aspect of this defense was the secondary. Led by Hall of Fame Safety Rod Woodson (77 tackles/ 4 forced fumbles /4 ints) this group was never out of position. They ranked 8th against the pass in 2000 yet were 2nd in passing TDs allowed with 11 while snatching 17 of the team’s 23 interceptions. Chris McAlister (4ints) and Duane Starks (6ints – The [[_]]) were top shelf corners and SS Kim Herring, Corey Harris, and Robert Bailey (The [[_]]) pounded TEs and slot receivers when teams went to multiple receiver sets.

During the season the Ravens were 1-1 against Pro Bowl quarterbacks and 2-0 against top 10 offenses. They held the NFL’s #2 offense to 3 points in their AFC Wildcard win. Yet this group was ranked #2 in 2000 and on their way to Super Bowl XXXV when they took on the #1 defense in the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.

After vanquishing the Titans the Ravens had to go on the road to face the Oakland Raiders for the AFC Championship. In Oakland they faced the 6th best offense in football and the #1 rushing offense with 154.4 yards per game. Strength vs strength in a battle to make it to Super Bowl XXXV.

With their 16-3 win, you do realize this was only the 2nd time in the Super Bowl era a team hosted the conference championship and couldn’t score a touchdown, right?? Only the Baltimore Colts performed this with their 34-0 win over Art Modell’s Cleveland Browns for the 1968 NFL Championship prior to Super Bowl III. That is only twice in 70 games! The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were the greatest defensive 11 in NFL history and are #2 on The Chancellor of Football’s list. Why weren’t they #1?? That will be explained in the next article.

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At the 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, ran into current Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis. The Defensive Coordinator of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens record setting defense.

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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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