Super Ravens

Victory over Raiders sends franchise, Modell to first Super Bowl

Giant showdown Jan. 28

Sharpe catch, defense quiet Oakland fans

Afc Championship

Rvaens 13, Raiders 3

January 15, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Baltimore football fans are going to have to bone up on their Roman numerals over the next XIV days, because the Ravens are headed for Super Bowl XXXV.

The Ravens scored a historic 16-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum yesterday to join the National Football Conference champion New York Giants in the Jan. 28 championship showcase at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Oft-maligned quarterback Trent Dilfer teamed with Super Bowl veteran Shannon Sharpe on a record-breaking 96-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and the Ravens' smothering defense did the rest, roughing up Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon and holding the NFL's best rushing team to just 24 yards on the ground.

There were a few tense moments in the final minutes of the game, but for every offensive foray by the Raiders, there was a decisive, dramatic answer by a Ravens defense that has earned a place among the greatest in NFL history.

What a day for Charm City, which last toasted a Super Bowl team in 1971, when the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, for the NFL title.

What a day for venerable Ravens owner Art Modell, who will crown his 40th year as an NFL owner with his first Super Bowl appearance.

Modell won an NFL title in 1964 - two seasons before the NFL and the American Football League hooked up for the first Super Bowl - but the Browns-turned-Ravens franchise was one of only nine NFL teams that had never played in pro football's signature event.

"I'm doubly honored," Modell said during the American Football Conference trophy ceremony after the game. "I'm gratified by the great support we have gotten from the fans in Baltimore, and I want to thank my friends in Cleveland who supported us for 35 years."

The emotion was written all over his face. He had endured so much criticism - so much heartache - in the wake of the move from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996 that it figured to take a trip to the Super Bowl to make things right.

"I can't imagine what this means to the Modell family," said Ravens owner-in-waiting Stephen J. Bisciotti, who attended the game with his family. "The respect that they engendered through the last 40 years - to be treated the way they have been - it's a nice vindication for a guy who didn't deserve to be vilified in the first place."

The road was long, in many ways. The team had to travel from Cleveland to Baltimore to acquire the financial wherewithal to regain its place among football's most storied franchises.

Modell said at the time of the move that in five years, the Ravens would be a team to be reckoned with, but the Ravens had to travel another hard road to make that prediction come true.

The Ravens had to go to Tennessee to upset the defending AFC champion Tennessee Titans last week, then travel coast-to-coast to face another 6-point favorite in one of the league's most intimidating venues.

`Black Hole' hype

The notorious Raiders fans were as raucous as usual, but the "Black Hole" (the most infamous cheering section in the stadium) turned out to be so much silver-and-black hype - falling eerily silent after Sharpe broke away on his record touchdown catch and run.

"When we did that, we covered up the hole," Sharpe said.

It was hard for the Ravens to resist a few parting shots at the Raiders faithful after being peppered with coins and debris when they took the field before the game.

"An astronomer once told me that a black hole, technically, is a star that has burned out," said receiver Qadry Ismail. "You can read into that whatever you want."

The 96-yard touchdown also went a long way toward restoring the reputation of Dilfer, who went on to throw for 190 yards and earn a trip back to the city where he spent most of his sometimes star-crossed NFL career.

"All I think he's done is put up 10 straight wins and get into the Super Bowl," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "You can quantify that any way you want, but he is the quarterback in the Super Bowl."

Sharpe used the opportunity to speak up for the entire offensive unit, which came under intense criticism after going five straight games - and the entire month of October - without scoring a touchdown.

"I just want to ask America, `What does crow taste like?'" Sharpe crowed, "because you all are eating it tonight."

Sharpe plays

Greater meaning? Dilfer wasn't interested.

"It just means I'm in the Super Bowl with the greatest bunch of guys I've ever played football with," he said. "Before the game, Shannon told me, `Look into my eyes. ... I'm going to make some plays for you today.' I told him, `Good, because I'll need them.'"

Sharpe has made a huge play in each of the Ravens' three playoff games. He pulled in a deflected pass and ran 58 yards for a touchdown in the Ravens' 21-3 victory over the Denver Broncos at PSINet Stadium two weeks ago and made a 56-yard catch-and-run to set up the Ravens' first touchdown in last week's win over the Titans.

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