- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

TAMPA, Fla. The Baltimore Ravens won the Vince Lombardi Trophy last night with a defensive effort that would have made its namesake proud.
Baltimore's record-setting defense scored a touchdown and silenced the New York Giants offense to win Super Bowl XXXV 34-7 at Raymond James Stadium. Only a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Giants receiver Ron Dixon prevented a shutout, which would have been appropriate. Indeed, the Ravens openly hoped to post the first Super Bowl blanking.
The Ravens won their first Super Bowl championship since relocating from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1995 by allowing a record-low 165 points this season. Baltimore limited New York to just 152 yards as the Giants converted only two of 14 first downs and lost five turnovers.
"People keep raising the bar," coach Brian Billick said about the team's historical status. "We won the Super Bowl and allowed the fewest points ever. What else is left?"
Beleaguered linebacker Ray Lewis won the MVP award after a week of questions about his involvement in a double murder hours after last year's Super Bowl in Atlanta. Lewis batted down four passes and had five tackles as he made plays from sideline to sideline.
"If I stumble now, I can stumble with a ring on my finger," Lewis said. "To get [the MVP] is to say, 'Wow.' I didn't do anything different than a regular season game."
Baltimore knew a strong defensive effort was needed because an offense that went five straight games this season without a touchdown was expected to struggle against the Giants defense. However, the Ravens offense slowly emerged, too.
The 10-0 halftime lead looked to be enough. A 49-yard touchdown interception by cornerback Duane Starks and 84-yard touchdown kickoff return by Jermaine Lewis sandwiched Dixon's score and capped a 21-point blitz in 36 seconds late in the third quarter, transforming a grinding game into a shootout. Running back Jamal Lewis sealed the victory with a 3-yard touchdown run with 8:45 remaining and silenced the decidedly pro-Giants crowd.
Billick thought the interception return for a touchdown gave the Ravens the emotional edge, but the kickoff return was more important.
"It had to be devastating to them," he said.
The Ravens (16-4) finished with 11 straight wins, while the Giants (14-5) had their eight-game streak ended. Baltimore became just the fourth wild-card team to win the Super Bowl joining the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs, the 1980 Oakland Raiders and the 1997 Denver Broncos. It was the first Super Bowl title for owner Art Modell, who bought the then-Cleveland Browns in 1961 for $4 million.
"To the people in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and state of Maryland, this belongs to you," Modell said. "This is the best team I ever had."
It was sweet redemption for Baltimore quarterback Trent Dilfer, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being drafted in the 1994 first round. He signed only a one-year deal with the Ravens as a backup but took over in October during the team's scoring drought. After he lost his first outing, he led the team to 11 straight.
Dilfer missed one series in the third quarter while his hand was X-rayed. He finished 12-for-25 for 153 yards and a 38-yard touchdown to Brandon Stokley that gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead.
"I think everyone has been saying how great this feels, but what feels better is waking up every morning thanking God, knowing life can be difficult at times and this comes out the other end," he said. "I don't feel any bitterness. I don't feel any redemption. I dealt with that a long time ago."
Certainly, it was a captivating effort until the fourth quarter for the 800 million people in 201 countries that watched the game in 26 languages, including more than 100 million Americans. After all, nearly half of all Americans were believed to have wagered $1.4 billion on the outcome through office pools, Web sites, bookmakers and Nevada sports books.
Some 72,000 people crammed into the stadium, where the end zone pirate ship fired more shots than the British on Fort McHenry. The only thing surrendered was fans' sanity, though. If the game wasn't compelling enough, the entertainment was worth the outrageous price of $2,000 to $7,500 for many tickets originally priced $325 and $400.
The Backstreet Boys continued the 10-year run of astounding renditions of the "Star Spangled Banner" after Sting wowed the crowd with a pregame performance. However, Ray Charles stole the show with "America the Beautiful" while a B-2 bomber silently flew overhead. It was only a precursor to the MTV-produced halftime show, during which Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" rocked the older crowd while 'N Sync and Britney Spears thrilled the teens.

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