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 XXX RUNNER UP 1995 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Three yards short… just 3 yards short of the 1994 AFC Championship. That loss to the San Diego Chargers haunted the Pittsburgh Steelers for nearly a full year. They had fought to unseat the Bills and Oilers in an AFC ruled by open offenses during the early 90s. In 1994 with each foe not making the playoffs, Pittsburgh would coast to Super Bowl XXIX, right?? After all Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Rod Woodson and the rest of the Blitzburgh defense would be back intact.

sbxxxpLOL Uh huh that’s exactly what everyone thought when on a rainy, gray, dreary, ominous day in Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers welcomed the San Diego Chargers in what was going to be a Steelers coronation and they’d be off to win that elusive “one for the thumb”, fifth Super Bowl title. However trailing late in the 4th quarter 13-10, on a 3rd and short, Stan Humphries play faked and went up top for Tony Martin for a 43yd touchdown with a few minutes to go in the game.

The Steelers weren’t known for their passing offense or good at a two minute drill. Frantically the Steelers raced down field when they were caught 3 yards away from the goal line facing a 4th down. The season rested on one play… Neil O’Donnell threw for Barry Foster yet Dennis Gibson knocked the ball down to preserve a 17-13 upset. Prozac prescriptions skyrocketed in western Pennsylvania.

So the mantra going into the ’95 season was to get those “3 more yards”. It was emblazoned on banners, t-shirts, terrible towels, you name it. They were determined not to be denied again.

In the offseason the Steelers said goodbye to free agent TE Eric Green and farewell to Barry Foster. Foster who had led the AFC with 1,690yds rushing in 1992 was the heart of the offense since Coach Bill Cowher had come to the Steel City. Yet unlike when the team lost Hardy Nickerson and Thomas Everett in recent years, Green and Foster represented the offenses identity and personality. So when they lost their most decorated player, cornerback Rod Woodson in week one, staggered to a 3-4 start, it looked like 1995 would become a lost season.

nfl_woodson-rings_600x600Enter Kordell Stewart. The mid-round draftee QB from Colorado made famous for his hail mary pass that beat Michigan in 1994, was languishing on the Steelers bench. Several receivers were injured and he was pressed into duty as a receiver in practice where he proved to be more athletic than the regular receivers. Stewart electrified in practice. Cowher started to insert Stewart into the lineup in several packages and a now wide open Steelers offense was born.

The big play along with 3, 4, and 5 receiver sets were run with regularity, for the first time. Teams did not have any film to study they’re new approach nor ANY film to recognize where or how they would use Stewart.

With this new weapon, “Slash” helped the Steelers break their predictable play calling and a bolder offense went from scoring 21 to 27 points per game. They went on an 8 game winning streak and for 6 straight games scored in the last two minutes before the half. Stewart scored 4 of those touchdowns. They took the momentum into the half with them in the process. Retooled with new enthusiasm the ’95 Steelers screamed into the playoffs.

super-bowl-logo-1995How different was this team? In their first playoff win over Buffalo, the Steelers scored the most points ever in a home playoff game winning 40-21. The AFC Championship against the upstart Indianapolis Colts was a slugfest that echoed the 1994 championship in many ways. The most eery was when Harbaugh duplicated the exact same scenario, throwing a late 4th qtr bomb to Floyd Turner to take a 16-13 lead. You want to talk about a hush falling over a stadium, my goodness you would have thought you were at a funeral…lol and we were. After all they had overcome to get back to the championship game and they were in the same position again?? Are you kidding me??

So what had changed?? The season long development of their passing game is what had.  Not only were they able to initiate a march, they actually faced the team’s motto during the drive. Facing a 4th and 3 near midfield with their season on the line, O’Donnell hit Andre Hastings to keep the drive alive. “To hell with a tie!”

Nearing field goal range for a game tying kick, this bolder Steeler offense went for it all when O’Donnell found a streaking Ernie Mills down to the 2. They scored on the next play to take a 20-16 lead. Now it was up to the defense to hold off the Colts who had come from behind many times that season. Harbaugh brought them to within a failed hail mary of pulling off the upset.

So with a collective sigh of relief they were off to Super Bowl XXX. They literally got those three more yards. Although they lost to Dallas, they thoroughly outplayed them from the middle of the second quarter on. They held Dallas to 61 total yards in the second half, fewest ever for a Super Bowl winner.

They were the first to kick an onside kick without being under 5 minutes to go. Something the Saints copied in Super Bowl XLIV. A couple errant interceptions by O’Donnell robbed this team of its rightful place in history as a Super Bowl champion. Yet the magnificence of their effort in trying to achieve their goal was to be celebrated. Tremendous lesson to be learned from these men is a simple one. To achieve what you want, you may have to change how you do things to get there.

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Sigh…. Neil!!! This was the crowning jewel for becoming AFC Champions in 1995. They should have won it all…

 

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 186 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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