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Ravens romp in Super Bowl, 34-7
TAMPA, Fla. -- It took 30 years and no small amount of heartache and tears, but Baltimore is on top of the football world once again.
The surprising Ravens completed their magical playoff run with a wild and one-sided 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV and presented the city with its first NFL championship since the Colts won Super Bowl V in 1971.
Call it the Purple Reign.
Call it whatever you want.
The sellout crowd of 71,921 at Raymond James Stadium -- and a worldwide television audience estimated at 800 million -- witnessed one of the most dominating defensive performances in Super Bowl history.
And, as an added bonus, the sports fans of Baltimore got to enjoy the rare spectacle of a New York team totally undressed, after years of suffering through New York Yankees baseball dominance.
"To the people of Baltimore City, to the people of Baltimore County, to all the people of Maryland, this belongs to you," Ravens owner Art Modell said as he accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
There were big plays all over the place. Duane Starks returned an interception for a touchdown. Jermaine Lewis ran back a kickoff for another. Jamal Lewis rushed for 102 yards. Ray Lewis was everywhere, including on the stage after the game to receive the Pete Rozelle Most Valuable Player trophy.
"We told them before we left, `We're going to bring you back a world championship,' " he said. "We told them we would ... and we did."
This one is for all those cold Sunday afternoons when they were playing football everywhere but Baltimore.
This one is for that cold March night in 1984 when Robert Irsay and the Colts slithered out of town. All is not forgiven, but now we can begin forgetting.
This one is for Modell, who -- sadly -- had to do the same thing to the city of Cleveland to get in position for his first Super Bowl.
This is for all the people who fought to bring an expansion team to Baltimore, only to be told that they would be better off with another museum.
Baltimore has some great museums. Now, it has another Super Bowl championship.
"We're the best team in football and we proved it," said quarterback Trent Dilfer, who made his return to Tampa triumphant with some clutch passes in the first half. "We knew it. We had the heart, the will and the confidence. We knew we had a great team. Today was just a matter of going out and proving what we already knew."
In a perfect world, they'd truck the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore in a Mayflower moving van, but the Ravens will have to settle for a championship parade downtown tomorrow at 11 a.m.
The team returns to Baltimore today, but fans are asked not to try to greet them at either Baltimore-Washington International Airport (they will not arrive through a public terminal) or the Ravens complex in Owings Mills.
What a night!
The evening began with a stirring pre-game ceremony that featured the legendary Ray Charles Charles singing "America the Beautiful," the Backstreet Boys delivering the national anthem and appearances by rock singer Sting and veteran rock group Styx.
The halftime show featured performances by 'N Sync, pop diva Britney Spears and rock group Aerosmith.
The second half featured an uncharacteristic offensive flurry that made a mockery of the 3-point betting line and two weeks of predictions that this would be one of the closest Super Bowls in history.
"I'm just numb right now," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "I don't have a team to prepare for next week, so I'm just numb."
All he has to prepare for now is the parade and finding a replacement for defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who is all but certain to leave the team for a head coaching position.
Once again, the Ravens faced a predominantly hostile crowd. There were a lot of Ravens fans in attendance, particularly in the north end zone, but Tampa is something of a New York suburb. The Yankees hold spring training across the street from the site of Super Bowl XXXV.
No problem. That seems to be the perfect environment for the Ravens' smash-mouth, defense-oriented style of play.
They went into the pit in Tennessee and knocked off the defending American Football Conference champion Titans to reach the AFC championship game. They went into one of the most hostile stadiums in professional sports a week later and dominated the Oakland Raiders.
Compared to that, the NFC champion Giants were a piece of cake. The Ravens defense surrendered just one touchdown in four postseason games. If they aren't the best defensive unit in history, they want to know who is.
"I'm biased," said Billick, "but who cares? Somebody tell me they're not."