Connections galore between Giants, Ravens
NEW YOKR (AP) -- On Sept. 12, 1999, the New York Giants visited the new Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for the first time and made a dramatic impression.
In two weeks, the Giants face Dilfer again in the same stadium, this time with the NFL title on the line. Dilfer is now the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, having won 10 of his 11 starts for Baltimore after replacing Tony Banks.
A lot of people think it will be the same kind of game -- the top-ranked defense (Baltimore) against No. 5 (New York) and the two top defenses against the run (Baltimore 1, New York 2).
The Giants have more offense, but the Ravens, who set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season, have shut down offenses better than New York's. Look at what they did to Oakland in the AFC title game Sunday, a 16-3 Baltimore victory.
There are also all kind of connections in this game beyond Dilfer's return to Tampa, where he started for six seasons:
The Giants got to that game by beating Cleveland 10-7 to break a tie in the East on a 48-yard field goal through the snow by Pat Summerall.
This year's game also reflects what the NFL has become. It's the third time in a row that two new teams are meeting in the Super Bowl. The Giants were 7-9 last season, the Ravens 8-8, demonstrating how easily it is for teams to move up (and down) in the salary cap era.
"When you get this far, a lot of things have to go right," Billlick said before Sunday's game. "You have to avoid major injuries to major players, you have to get the right bounces, the right breaks, everything. That's why it's a shame that when there are four teams left, two have to go home."
Accorsi has the same view from another angle. Last August, he was asked his thoughts on what Daniel Snyder and the Washington Redskins had done in the off-season, spending $100 million on the likes of Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Jeff George, moves that led almost everyone to concede the NFC East to them.
"Let's see how it plays out," Accorsi replied. "We think we made some pretty good moves ourselves."
Well, it's played out and Accorsi's moves look considerably better than Snyder's. Accorsi brought in three veteran offensive linemen -- Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker and Dusty Ziegler -- who not only added stability and ability to one of the Giants' weakest positions but also leadership in the locker room.
He also added linebacker Mike Barrow to upgrade the team's defensive speed and hit with his first three draft picks -- running back Ron Dayne, defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin and wide receiver-kick returner Ron Dixon, all of whom have made important contributions.
The Giants also avoided major, long-term injuries -- cornerback Jason Sehorn and wide receiver Ike Hilliard missed a few weeks, and Parker and Brown have had nagging injuries. But all the important players have been healthy most of the season, and Hilliard and Sehorn both played major roles in the 41-0 win over Minnesota in Sunday's NFC title game. Sehorn held Randy Moss to two receptions for 18 yards and Hilliard had 10 catches for 155 yards and two TDs.
Hilliard probably will not do that against the Baltimore defense, and Sehorn will not have to cover anyone close to Moss' ability, although he may help with tight end Shannon Sharpe.
That's more symmetry: Sharpe and Sehorn are the two stars of a long-running commercial for a brokerage house.
You just can't get away from it.