1-29-2001 BY GEOFF HOBSON
TAMPA, Fla. _ With seven minutes left in the Super Bowl Sunday night, Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome made his way to the victorious sideline.
"Congratulations, Ozzie. You're a world champion," someone told him.
Newsome, architect of the Baltimore roster that melted down the Giants into the Vince Lombardi Trophy with defense and special teams, shook the man's hand.
"That sounds good. No one has ever called me that before," Newsome said. "I like the sound of it."
After Baltimore's 34-7 domination here at Raymond James Stadium, Newsome wasn't the only guy who finally climbed the mountain to redemption.
Newsome could finally look beyond those heartbreaking losses in the AFC title game as a Cleveland Brown.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis was implicated in a double murder the night after the last Super Bowl. Charges were dropped before the season and now he leaves this Super Bowl as the MVP.
"Kiss my kids and hug my mom," said Lewis, when asked what he would on a night he went sideline-to-sideline with five tackles and four passes defensed.
"To be here after what happened last year. . .it's a feeling you can't describe."
Trent Dilfer, the Ravens' Born Again quarterback, returned to the town where they booed him into oblivion and made two throws nobody thought he could make in a big game:
A 38-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Stokley in the game's first 6:50 and a 44-yard pass to Qadry Ismail that staked the Ravens to a 10-0 half-time lead that might as well have been 100-0.
Ravens owner Art Modell, known for two of the most dastardly deeds in pro football as the man who fired Paul Brown and moved the Browns to Baltimore, finally won his first Super Bowl.
"I really don't know how they feel," said Modell of the folks in Cleveland. "I can't answer for them. I would hope that maybe they would recognize this as something we did. I love that city and I love the people. But it wasn't meant to be."
What was meant to be Sunday was the coronation of the Ravens' defense as NFL royalty in a line of succession dating to the Monsters of the Midway, the Steel Curtain, and Buddy Ryan's 46 Bears alignment.
In fact, not only did the Ravens make history here in Super Bowl XXXV. They repeated it.
With the Giants starting seven of their 18 drives at their own 21-yard-line or deeper, the Ravens showed New York plenty of that dreaded Bears' look that jams up the line of scrimmage with more than the front four linemen.
"They had us backed up most of the time and they were able to gamble more," said Giants left tackle Lomas Brown. "That Bears' defense
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is pretty much a defense where you take chances. And when they do that, it cuts down on your running plays. It limits your playbook. You could see (linebackers Peter and Jamie) Boulware and Sharper coming up and they had No. 45 (third safety Corey Harris) coming up fast, too."
After stuffing the Giants on 152 yards, allowing no pass longer than 19 yards, yielding no drive of more than 50 yards, and holding the Giants to Ron Dixon's 97-yard touchdown kick return, Brown was convinced.
"They did what they said they were going to do," Brown said. "Shut us out.
"I rank them," said the 16-year veteran of where he puts the Ravens defense in history. "You got to. They closed the deal. At first I said, 'If they don't close the deal, no.' But they proved it and closed it down in the biggest game of the year. They deserve every accolade they get."
On this night of redemption, wasn't it fitting that the Ravens' much- maligned secondary came up large? They had three of Baltimore's four interceptions against Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, returned one for a touchdown, and held a quarterback coming off three 300-yard games in the past five weeks to less than three yards per completion.
And wasn't it fitting that the most maligned guy in the secondary 5-10, 170-pound Duane Starks broke this game open with a 49-yard interception return just 3:49 into the second half? It sucked the life out of the Giants with a 17-0 lead.
"Too small. Too short. Don't weigh very much," Starks said. "But I've got heart. That's what it takes."
It also took brains on the first-and-10 play from the Giants 44. Starks saw Collins hop on his first step as he dropped back from center. The hop told Starks it was going to be some kind of quick slant pattern off a three-step drop.
So Starks broke out of his zone coverage and cut in front of receiver Amani Toomer.
"Everytime he gives that hop, you know it's coming," Starks said. "We play a lot of different coverages and we disguise them. That was a zone, but I rolled up on him.
"Everybody says the way to beat the Ravens is in the air," Starks said. "But we proved them wrong today. They got a negative six points out of it."
Collins said the Starks play was his most disappointing. And there was plenty to choose from on a dreadful night he was 15 of 39 for 112 yards.
"I knew what coverage I had. I knew all those things," Collins said. "The guy stepped in front of it. I've got to see his position, where he's playing and what he's going to do. I think he led me the whole way."
The master of this disaster, Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, will be a head coach at this time next week. Maybe, in all places, Cleveland.
With Ray Lewis setting a tone by bending down to pick up grass when he was introduced in the starting lineup ("It meant this was our turf"), Marvin Lewis sent his own message early in the game.
The blitzing Ravens got a sack from defensive end Rob Burnett on the Giants' fourth play from scrimmage, and forced Collins to run out of the pocket two plays later to force the third of what would be a Super Bowl record 21 punts for the two teams.
Usually, Marvin Lewis likes to sit with his big tackles, quick ends, and video-game fast linebackers and play offenses straight up. Aggressively. But straight.
"Once we got the lead, we were going to sit back and do more isolation and (get pressure) from just the four-man line," Marvin Lewis said. "We wanted to set the tempo early in the game. Three or four of the first six calls had pressures on. . .We wanted to keep attacking. Even though they do a lot of shifting and moving, we weren't going to let anyone take us out of our game."
Free safety Rod Woodson said earlier in the week that the Ravens would have to win Sunday if they wanted to be mentioned in the same breath with the great defenses.
"With the performance we had today, if people were to look at the performance today, you can't simulate what we have (as far as speed) in practice," Woodson said. "We not only fly around and hit people (in practice), we enjoy it. That's scary."
Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton agreed that trying to simulate the Ravens' speed in a practice can't be done.
"We felt like there were some things we could do to them going into the game, such as multiple formations and sets where we could spread them out," Payton said. "You hear about (their speed). You certainly go in expecting it. You see it on film. Not only are they fast, but they are physical."
Modell said it's the greatest defense he's seen in 40 years. Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said, "I have to say it louder. This is the best defense ever to play the game."
"Yes," said defensive end Michael McCrary. "We solidified it today with only the kickoff return. Other than that against our defense it was a goose egg, just like a lot of other teams. A goose egg in the Super Bowl speaks for itself."
Marvin Lewis shrugged when it came to the 'best,' question.
"I don't think that matters," he said. "They proved that they are very, very, very good."