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History fails to repeat itself
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.
The Year in the NFL
- 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.
- Six Ravens were Pro Bowl selections, tying the team's mark set in 1998: LB Ray Lewis, OT Jonathan Ogden, DT Sam Adams, RS Jermaine Lewis, TE Shannon Sharpe and S Rod Woodson.
- LB Peter Boulware set a team record with 4 sacks against the Vikings to finish the season as the AFC's sack leader with 15.
- With the Ravens wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore became the first team in NFL history to win its first five playoff games.
The Year in the World
- Five of the six divisions had new champions, the fourth straight year that at least five of the six division champs were new.
- There were five 12-victory teams, tying a record set in 1998 and 1990 as the most ever.
- The NFC West had its sixth new division champion in six years (St. Louis).
- Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre moved into sixth place all-time in touchdown passes and threw for 20 touchdowns in his eighth consecutive season.
- Oakland Raiders WR Tim Brown posted his ninth 1,000 yard receiving season, moving into second place behind teammate WR Jerry Rice.
- Jerry Rice became the first receiver to accumulate 20,000 yards, joining RB Walter Payton and RS Brian Mitchell.
- Indianapolois Colts RB Dominic Rhodes rushed for 1,104 yards, the most ever by an undrafted rookie.
- Cleveland Browns rookie CB Anthony Henry, who wasn't even a starter, tied Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber for the league lead in interceptions (10).
- On Sept. 11, the world changed forever when terrorists flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center Towers, causing both to collapse and killing thousands. A plane was also flown into the Pentagon while another crashed in Pennsylvania.
- On Jan. 20 , George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.
- Dale Earnhardt, 49, while trying to protect the lead of teammate Michael Waltrip in the Daytona 500, crashes into the outside wall and dies.
- The stock market plummets 14 percent on Sept. 21, the second largest decline in history in the wake of 9/11.
- Attacks on Afghanistan begin Oct. 7 as terrorist training camps are targeted.
- An American Airlines jetliner headed for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic crashed in Queens, N.Y., killing 260 people.
- George Harrison, the Beatles' lead guitarist, dies of cancer at age 58.
- Britney Spears earns the dubious distinction of Worst-Dressed Woman of 2000, topping the annual list compiled by fashion guru Mr. Blackwell.
- Actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman announce they are separating, attributing conflicting schedules to the breakup.
- The XFL shuts down after just one season, losing about $70 million.