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Super symmetry

Connections galore between Giants, Ravens

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Monday January 15, 2001 4:41 PM

  Jermaine Lewis Baltimore return specialist Jermaine Lewis could be a factor against New York. AP

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.

They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-13, turning a fumble and an interception by Trent Dilfer into two touchdowns.

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:

Local Looks
  • Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun says regardless of whether the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV against the Giants in Tampa, their defense has earned the right to be called "great."
  • William Gildea of The Washington Post notes for the first time since January 1971, a Baltimore team gained a berth in the Super Bowl when the five-year-old Ravens upset the Oakland Raiders to win the American Football Conference championship.
  • Shaun Powell of Newsday writes the first indication came when they scored two touchdowns before the Vikings' first snap. Then it registered again once Kerry Collins began impersonating Sid Luckman. And right about halftime, when they were up by 34, you finally got the feeling the Giants could win this game. Super Bowl XXXV, that is.
  • Jay Greenberg of the New York Post says it was easy as pie in Dennis Green's face, as simple as Vikings stupid enough to have vowed redemption for their 28th-ranked defense, effortless as all suggestions following the Detroit loss that the Giants were going nowhere. 

  • The owners, Wellington Mara of the Giants and Art Modell of the Ravens, are close friends. "I'll be his friend until 6:18 p.m. two weeks from now," Modell, 75, said of Mara, 83, after Sunday's games.

  • Ernie Accorsi, the Giants' general manager, began his career with the Baltimore Colts and later was general manager of the then-Cleveland Browns, the team that Modell moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

  • The head coaches, Brian Billick of the Ravens and Jim Fassel of the Giants, are close friends. Both were assistant coaches at Stanford, although a decade apart.

  • The two franchises fought annually from the mid 1950s to the mid '60s for what was then the Eastern Conference title in the pre-Super Bowl era; the most storied matchup was Jim Brown of the Browns against Sam Huff, the middle linebacker for the Giants. And the Giants and Baltimore Colts, who were in the Western Conference put the NFL on the map in the 1958 championship game, the first overtime game ever played and one that's still numbered among the league's best.

    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.

    Related information
    Statitudes: From Bucs QBs to the Super Bowl
    Ravens' Dilfer lugging own bags back to Tampa
    After perfect plan, Giants' coordinators look ahead
    SI's King: MMQB -- Redemption for Giants QB Collins
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