History fails to repeat itself

Veteran Ravens squad comes up short in Super Bowl defense

2001 season


August 01, 2005|By Steve DeClue | Steve DeClue,Special to baltimoresun.com

The Ravens came off their 2000 Super Bowl season with thoughts of repeating only to see those hopes dashed by a longtime rival in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

The offseason began with news that Trent Dilfer was out and Elvis Grbac was in as starting quarterback. The move struck a chord with the national media, which found the ouster of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback to be an extension of the Ravens' arrogance. The team hoped Grbac would finally be the signal caller to cure their offensive woes, but the team quickly found out that the Dilfer era wasn't so bad after all.

The Ravens also brought back all of their aging veterans from the previous season for one more run at a world championship.

Then came that fateful day of training camp when budding star Jamal Lewis went down with a season-ending knee injury, leaving the Ravens scrambling to find a starting running back. Offensive lineman Leon Searcy, who figured to be a big part of the running attack, also went down with a season-ending injury, compounding the problems with the offense. The injuries showed how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions and how fortunate the Ravens were the previous season when no player missed significant time.

The Ravens ended up with a running back by committee approach that featured veteran Terry Allen, youngster Jason Brookins and Moe Williams, who played under coach Brian Billick when he was offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. All three players put together would not be nearly enough to make up for the loss of Lewis.

The Ravens began their season with 17-6 win over Chicago that was quickly followed by a stunning 21-10 loss at Cincinnati. The team rebounded to win at Denver and at home against Tennessee before losing two consecutive road games.

Grbac was inconsistent and was criticized for failing to take a leadership role, and the offense struggled without Jamal Lewis and his ability to grind out yards and wear down the opposition. Once again, the weight of the world was thrust upon the shoulders of the vaunted Ravens defense.

Like in 2000, the defense appeared up to the challenge. The Ravens strung together a three-game winning streak during which the team surrendered just 37 points. The defense then ran into a rough stretch, allowing more than 20 points in four consecutive games, resulting in two losses.

With the final playoff spot on the line, the Ravens finished the regular season with a 10-6 record by shutting down Minnesota's high-octane offense in a 19-3 victory on 'Monday Night Football.' The victory helped the team gain momentum for a second consecutive year of postseason play. Grbac finished the season with 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, certainly not the performance the Ravens expected when they signed him in the offseason.

Baltimore came alive during its wild-card game at Miami, drubbing the Dolphins 20-3 by using the old formula that made the team Super Bowl XXXV champions. The Ravens relied on a strong running game and punishing defense, and Grbac played the role of Dilfer well by minimizing his mistakes. He did not throw an interception, and Allen ran for 109 yards in the victory. The nasty Ravens were back, swagger and all.

But the Steelers, Baltimore's next playoff opponent, proved too physical for the Ravens and Grbac, who threw three interceptions and was eventually replaced by backup Randall Cunningham. Cunningham attempted to jumpstart the offense, but to no avail. If not for an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jermaine Lewis in the third quarter, the Ravens would not have reached the end zone. The Steelers eliminated the Ravens and any hopes of back-to-back Super Bowl titles in a 27-10 rout.

The Ravens failed to capture another Super Bowl championship, and a major overhaul was on the way.

Season Highlights

*The Ravens opened training camp with their own television show, HBO's "Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Baltimore Ravens."

*The Ravens won their 12th consecutive game with a season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears.

*Matt Stover broke the NFL record for most consecutive games with a field goal against Cleveland, breaking Fred Cox's old record of 31 games. Stover's streak ended at 38 games.

*Shannon Sharpe became the NFL's all-time leading pass-catching tight end, surpassing Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

*Safety Rod Woodson set an NFL record by returning a Peyton Manning interception 47 yards for a touchdown, his 10th career interception return for a touchdown.

*The Ravens scored their third consecutive home shutout win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the first time in 24 years that a team had three straight home shutouts over the same opponent.

*The Ravens' streak of 50 games of not allowing a 100-yard rusher came to an end when Cincinnati's Corey Dillon rushed for 127 yards. That was the longest such streak since the 1989-1992 Philadelphia Eagles 53-game streak.

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