Comparing The Ravens Championships
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Written by: Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens were established in 1996 and have won two Super Bowl championships. This means that in 18 years the Ravens have done twice what 13 teams have never done (win a Super Bowl). The Ravens first Super Bowl came with the 2000-2001 season in which they boasted arguably the greatest defense of all time. The 2000 Ravens defense gave up the fewest points ever averaging 9.4 per game. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens defense was not spectacular; but Ray Lewis was the heart and soul of both championship teams. The 2012 Ravens won it all so that “the General” could walk off into the sunset with another ring. The Ravens were also led by a historically great playoff run by Joe Flacco. The Ravens “Joe Cool” tied a record held by the original “Joe Cool” (Montana), and Kurt Warner; with 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a postseason run. The Ravens championships came with two very different teams but there are similarities.
The comparisons begin in the regular season. Both Ravens teams went through some awfully rough times. In fact the two teams each had their rock bottom moment that forced a major change. In the 2000 regular season the Ravens started off strong, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-0. The Baltimore defense made a statement as the Ravens started the season on 5-1 stretch. The Ravens then went through 5 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown. The Ravens won the first two games with field goals and dominating defense; but lost the next 3 games. It looked like the Ravens were dead in the water. The Ravens benched Tony Banks in favor of Trent Dilfer. The offense was now functional. It may not have been pretty but with the Ravens defense it was good enough. With Trent Dilfer under center the Ravens went on an 11 game winning streak that ended with the Lombardi trophy coming to Baltimore. From the bitter floor of frustration to magical euphoria the Ravens found their “Festivus Maximus”.
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The 2012 team got off to a similar fast start winning 9 of their first 11 games. The Ravens may had been 9-2 but there were problems brewing in Baltimore. In week 12 the Ravens miraculously came out of San Diego with a win. The game will be forever remembered for the 4th and 29 conversion, where Joe Flacco checked down to Ray Rice who managed to make magic happen. The Ravens were winning but the offense and defense both had their fair share of struggles. In week 5 the Ravens won a horribly played game against the Chiefs 9-6; the game looked like a game show called “Who Wants To Win The Least?” In week 6 the Ravens won a game against Dallas 31-29. The winning performance was riddled with miscues by the purple and black. The Ravens gave up 488 total yards to the Cowboys offense. The Ravens literally won the game because Dallas made worse mistakes then the Ravens. The Ravens gave up 227 rushing yards, most of which were earned in the first half. The Ravens lost 3 straight games after their 9-2 start, including a shocking loss at home to the Charlie Batch led Steelers. I remember how brutal that stretch was as a fan. It was truly the lowest of lows. That was the end of Cam Cameron in Baltimore. John Harbaugh fired the offensive coordinator and promoted Jim Caldwell. The offense had reached a point where it would never get better as long as Cameron was calling the shots. Caldwell and the Ravens let Joe Flacco run the show in the postseason. Just like in 2000, the Ravens made a drastic change to bring them out of their rock bottom moment.
Both championship teams got to the Super Bowl the hard way. Both teams hosted a game in the Wild Card round. Both teams then had to win 2 daunting games on the road. In 2000 the Ravens had to conquer the Titans who were unbeaten in their stadium. In a physically brutal game for the ages they won 24-10. I had always said it was the greatest game I had ever seen until the 2012 miracle in Mile High. The Ravens were facing the number 1 seed Denver Broncos. The Peyton Manning led team was the heavy favorite, the Ravens the underdog. In what may be the game of his life, Joe Flacco out dueled Manning to win in double overtime. Flacco found Jacoby Jones on a hail Mary touchdown pass that took the game to overtime. Say whatever you want about the safety being out of position, it was the greatest throw I have ever seen. It was also the greatest game I had ever seen. The drama of that game produced a once in a lifetime excitement. Both Ravens teams knew after their dramatic wins in the divisional round, that nothing would stop them.
The 2000 team dominated the favored Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game to the score of 16-3. The 2012 team laid a beat down on the Patriots 28-13. There was a certain toughness, a resolve that both teams had. Nothing in the world could break them. When I hear the phrase “Play Like A Raven” I think about the men who built these two championships.
Both championships were inspired by Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis was found not guilty of murder and the 2000 season was a second chance for Ray Lewis. At the time, Ray Lewis was heavily scrutinized by the public. The team rallied behind their emotional leader. I think part of the 2000 Ravens success was a strong comradery that was built on this adversity. In 2012, Ray Lewis announced he would retire right before the postseason began. The team felt like they had to win for Ray.
The Ravens championship seasons are special. The similarities between the two championship seasons is truly amazing when you stop to think about it.