"Ravens Dominant in 34-7 Super Bowl Victory"
(Tampa, FL) - The Baltimore Ravens, capping the most dominant defensive season in NFL history, rode two long returns for 36 seconds apart in the 3rd quarter to an insurmountable lead and cruised to a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Jamal Lewis ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 8:45 to play to put the game out of reach at 31-7, and kicker Matt Stover finished the scoring on a 34-yard field goal with 5:28 left as the Ravens, who set a record for the fewest points allowed in an NFL regular season, finished 13-4.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was named the game's most valuable player.
Jamal Lewis' touchdown, the first rushing TD by a rookie in the Super Bowl in 13 years, came after teammate Jermaine Lewis capped a stunning exchange of three returns for touchdowns in 36 seconds in the 3rd quarter, bringing back a kickoff 84 yards to put the Ravens up 24-7. Jermaine Lewis' play countered a 97-yard kickoff return by rookie wide receiver Ron Dixon, who in turn had answered a 49-yard scoring return of Kerry Collins' fourth interception by the Ravens' Duane Starks just 18 seconds before that. Before the shocking scoring outburst, the Ravens held the same 10-0 lead they took into the locker room at halftime. Trent Dilfer threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stockley in the 1st quarter and Matt Stover kicked a 47-yard field goal 1:41 left in the second for the only points of the half.
The Giants appeared to be driving for a possible score late in the half, but Chris McAlister intercepted a Collins pass with about a minute left to snuff out the threat. Stover missed a 41-yard attempt to extend Baltimore's lead with 6:06 left in the 3rd quarter.
So overpowering were the opposing defenses -- aided somewhat by drops and mistakes by each offense -- that the teams combined for a game- record 20 punts. The game opened with the Giants playing right into the hands of the Baltimore defense, usually aligning in tight formations that permitted the Ravens to crowd the line of scrimmage. Typically the Ravens began to compress the field as Collins appeared tentative from the outset. New York's first four possessions commenced at its own 21-, 13-, 1- and 14-yard lines and their offense went three-and-out on three of the series with only one first down. The failure of the Giants to establish any semblance of a rhythm allowed the Ravens to enjoy superior field position and that eventually paid off handsome for Baltimore. The game's first score came as a result of that field position edge, with the Ravens starting their third series in New York territory, at the 41-yard line. After a 3-yard run off left tackle by tailback Jamal Lewis, the Ravens aligned in a three-wide receiver set on second down. Stokley, a second-year receiver some Ravens players had privately noted was key to the game plan, was in the left slot and he beat Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn on the snap. Free safety Shaun Williams was slow to react to the play, and Stokely sprinted up the right seam, leaving a flatfooted Sehorn in his wake. He gathered in Dilfer's nicely-touched pass at the 10-yard line and dragged Sehorn into the end zone. Stover's extra point pushed the Ravens into a 7-0 lead 8:10 into the game.
It was obvious as the quarter wore on that the Ravens had little respect for Sehorn and, had Dilfer been more accurate, Baltimore might have scored a second touchdown. Wideout Pat Johnson beat Sehorn deep up the left side late in the quarter, but Dilfer overthrew him badly. The other edge for the Ravens was the play of left defensive end Rob Burnett, who thoroughly manhandled Giants right tackle Luke Petitgout. Through the quarter, Collins was under pressure but did have receivers open deep on at least three occasions, overthrowing them each time. The field at Raymond James Stadium, rated the best in the league according to an NFL Players Association survey, looked slippery, with players from both teams struggling to make clean cuts. For the quarter, the teams totaled two first downs and just 82 yards.
The game nearly turned 4 1/2 minutes into the second quarter when Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead intercepted a Dilfer screen pass intended for Jamal Lewis and returned it for an apparent touchdown. But Giants defensive tackle Keith Hamilton was flagged for holding Lewis on the play, and the score was nullified. That play came just two snaps after Baltimore weakside linebacker Jamie Sharper halted a New York possession by intercepting a pass that had been deflected by middle 'backer Ray Lewis.
With 8:24 remaining in the half, the Giants began a promising drive by spreading the field and throwing in the center of a Ravens secondary that was sitting back in "two-deep" and "quarters" zones. Collins hooked up with wideout Amani Toomer for a 19-yard gain and the Giants moved to the Baltimore 45-yard line. But on second-and-10, Collins was sacked for a loss of 9 yards by Ravens defensive tackle Keith Washington, who slid off guard Glenn Parker's block to slip inside and collar the quarterback. The sack forced a New York punt that temporarily pinned the Ravens to their own 12-yard line. But once again, Dilfer showed little regard for the New York cornerbacks, and this time he turned his attention to the slow-footed Dave Thomas, a suspect defender whose shortcomings had been successfully camouflaged by coordinator John Fox throughout the postseason.
On a third-and-2 play, wide receiver Patrick Johnson torched Johnson up the left sideline, catching a 44-yard pass. Thomas saved a touchdown with an arm tackle at the ankle of Johnson, bu, once again, the Ravens had reversed the field position. Dilfer missed an opportunity for another big play when he missed wideout Qadry Ismail on a hard inside slant two snaps later. The Ravens added to their lead, though, on Stover's 47-yard field goal with 1:41 left in the half.
A facemask penalty on the ensuing kickoff helped the Giants out of a hole and a 27-yard run on a draw play by Tiki Barber moved the ball to the Baltimore 29. With solid protection for a change, Collins tried to force the ball to Ike Hilliard in double coverage. Strong safety Kim Herring and McAlister had the Giants receiver bracketed, and McAlister made the interception at the 5-yard line.
For the half, Collins was just eight-for-21 for 74 yards and two interceptions. Dilfer completed seven-of-17 for 108 yards. The teams combined for nearly as many punts (13) as completions. New York had eight first downs and 116 yards in the half. Despite their lead, the Ravens weren't much better, with 147 yards and six first downs. The game went from featuring two of the worst quarterbacks in Super Bowl history to three of the worst, when Dilfer suffered a sprained hand and was replaced for one series by backup Tony Banks. But the events late in the quarter stirred a quiet crowd, with the teams combining for the first back-to-back kickoff returns in Super Bowl history. The injury to Dilfer occurred when he was sacked by defensive end Michael Strahan and tackle Cornelius Griffin for a 7-yard loss on the opening series of the second half. Dilfer returned after X-rays on his left (non-throwing) hand were negative.
The difficulties for Collins continued, however, and he might have been better off had someone stepped on his hand as well. Two of the Giants' first three possessions in the quarter ended with Collins throwing interceptions and the second proved fatal. With a first down at his own 44-yard line and just under four minutes remaining in the quarter, Collins attempted to throw a quick hitch to Amani Toomer, who broke his route a little early. Starks stepped in front of the poorly thrown pass, made the easy pickoff and raced 49 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead 11:11 into the quarter. For Collins, it was the fourth interception of the game.
The Giants answered back, however, rookie wide receiver Dixon returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. A third-round pick from tiny Lambuth College in Jackson, Miss., Dixon made one cut past Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown at the 25-yard line and, by the time he sprinted past his own 40, he was completely in the clear. Not to be outdonne, the Ravens' mercurial return man, Lewis, stepped up to take the next kickoff at his own 16-yard line, cut to the right sideline and then danced down the boundary for the score. Lewis got one key block, from safety Corey Harris, who cut down New York corner Emmanuel McDaniel to clear the way. McDaniel played the coverage poorly, backing off instead of attacking the seam. The return by Lewis culminated a wild stretch of three touchdowns, all on returns, in 36 seconds. As he crossed the goal line, Lewis pointed to the sky, a reference to his baby son, Geronimo, who was delivered stillborn on Dec. 11. Since then, Lewis has worn a wristband with "G-Mo" printed on it.
Unless you were a Las Vegas bookie fretting about the 32 1/2-point over-under number on the game, the final quarter was anticlimactic. A Ravens defense that had surrendered just 16 points in its three previous postseason victories was not about to surrender anything more. Baltimore added to its lead on the touchdown run around left end by Jamal Lewis and the capping field goal by Stover, and the Ravens doused coach Brian Billick, certain now to be more insufferable than ever, with the customary Gatorade bath with more than two minutes remaining. The only question was about who would be named the game's most valuable player and a media panel which all week had documented Ray Lewis' every word selected the linebacker for the honor.