by Michael Morrison
By now you've likely heard all the Super Bowl hype you can stand. You've heard all about Giants quarterback Kerry Collins and his fight with alcohol and you've heard all about Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and his legal troubles. Forget all that for now because it's time to talk about football.
At about 6:20 p.m. on Sunday, January 28, 2001, just after the Backstreet Boys screech the final note of the national anthem, the ball will be kicked off and nothing will matter except the Giants and the Ravens. Both teams are surprise entries to this year's Big Show, with their stellar defenses carrying them throughout the postseason. The fact of the matter is that outside of New York and Baltimore, this may be one of the least anticipated Super Bowls of all time.
|Both teams appear to be peeking at the right time. Since being embarrassed at home by Detroit in week 11, the Giants have rattled off seven consecutive wins. The Ravens found themselves at 5-4 after the first nine games and have won 10 straight since then. So something has to give. The Giants have the better offense by a wide margin. The Ravens have the better defense but it's much closer than fans may think. Turnovers and field position will play a huge role in this game. The so-called football traditionalists will enjoy this defensive battle, but most viewers will consider it a snoozefest.|
|The Giants are itching to prove that their defense is just as impressive as Baltimore's. They'll find a way to find the end zone and will add a couple field goals to solidify their third Super Bowl title.
Giants 16, Ravens 10.
Few would want to be in the shoes of Giants offensive coordinator Jim Skipper this week, the man faced with the challenge of scoring against the Ravens defense. If it's not the best defensive unit of all time, it's certainly in the top five. Led by Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and Pro Bowler Sam Adams, the Ravens allowed just 165 points in the regular season, an NFL-record low for a 16-game season.
The Giants' offense has been clicking recently, averaging over 27 points per game in their last five and exploding for 41 against the admittedly weak Minnesota defense in the NFC Championship game. It won't be quite that easy against Baltimore, but it can be done. In three of the four Baltimore losses in 2000, they allowed over 100 yards rushing. To no one's surprise, the ground game is crucial to the Giants' success on Sunday.
Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber, a.k.a. "Thunder and Lightning," combined for over 1,700 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in the regular season. If they can find a way to get it going early, it will open up the field for Collins, who has a solid receiving corps in Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer. As far as Collins has come on his road to recovery, if he gets off to a slow start it could be a long, brutal day for the Giants offense.When the Ravens Have the Ball
To be blunt, there's really not too much to like about the Ravens offense. Rookie running back Jamal Lewis has been a bright spot with 1,364 rushing yards in the regular season, but the passing game is one of the worst in the league and the team's overall ability to make its way into the end zone has been frightful.
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The Ravens have improved since their five-game touchdown-free stretch in the middle of the season but should struggle against Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton and the rest of the Giants defensive unit. The Giants' run defense is their strength but last week seemed to bottle up the formidable Minnesota passing game with ease.
Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer returns to Tampa, where his habit of giving the ball to his opponents at the worst possible times ultimately caused his departure from the Buccaneers. Qadry Ismail is his speediest, most explosive receiver but he'd likely find more success focusing his attentions on getting the ball to Lewis and tight end Shannon Sharpe without turning the ball over.