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What We Learned

Three things we learned from the Ravens' Super Bowl win

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Posted: Sunday January 28, 2001 11:44 PM
Updated: Monday January 29, 2001 1:14 AM

  Brian Billick Brian Billick's team has a decision to make on whether to bring back Trent Dilfer as its starting quarterback. AP

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

TAMPA, Fla. -- They called it a Super Bowl only a (player's) mother could love, and in the end it will take its place along other Super Bowl blowouts. But the Ravens don't care if the excitement went out of it a bit early. What could be more thrilling than the thought of a football-rich city like Baltimore hoisting its first Vince Lombardi crown in 30 years?

1. Now what? Now that he's gone and done it, what will the Baltimore Ravens do?

Believe it, folks. Trent Farris Dilfer has joined the pantheon of winning Super Bowl quarterbacks. And now we get to find out if the Ravens have the courage of their convictions.

The situation in Baltimore is about to get intriguing. Can the Ravens really turn away from the man who helped lead them to an NFL championship with 11 consecutive season-ending victories? Has a Super Bowl-winning quarterback ever been so unassured of a starting job next season?

The story is this: Publicly, the Ravens have maintained for the past two months that they can win a championship with Dilfer at quarterback. That he's just the guy who could get them to the promised land.

Privately, the feeling at the top levels of the organization is that Dilfer is just another guy. That he is not the passer to plan the long-term future around. That there is a crying need for a full-service quarterback in 2001, when winning on suffocating defense and special teams might be a much more difficult scenario for the Ravens to pull off.

As early as midseason, thoughts in Baltimore turned to Washington quarterback Brad Johnson, a free agent to be. If you closed your eyes, you could almost see the ex-Viking wearing Ravens purple next season.

 
Multimedia
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   Ravens head coach Brian Billick is ready to argue his defense is the best in NFL history.
   Ravens QB Trent Dilfer talks about his redemption after a terrible start in Tampa Bay.
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The reality is this: Dilfer has earned himself a place in Baltimore football lore. But he hasn't earned himself a place in the Ravens' starting lineup. The smart money remains on Johnson, with the veteran grooming rookie Chris Redman for the future.

Even with Dilfer's gaudy 11-1 record as the Baltimore starter, head coach Brian Billick and director of personnel Ozzie Newsome are convinced they'll need more from the position in 2001, and that Johnson is their best option. Dilfer and backup Tony Banks are very likely both gone.

But give Dilfer his due. Modest statistics or not, in the NFL, it's impossible to deliver more than he did for Baltimore in 2000.

2. It was the Super Bowl only Ray Guy could love.

OK, so all the folks bemoaning or predicting a lack of offense last week might have had a decent point after all. Nine first-quarter punts? Thirteen in the first half? Sheesh. The Super Bowl record for an entire game was 15, in Super Bowls XVIII and XXXI. These two teams tied that mark with 4:29 remaining. In the third quarter! The record-breaker came a half-minute later. The final mind-numbing tally was 21.

Yeah, the Ravens came alive for 24 second-half points, but 14 of those points came off of their stellar defense and special team units. In the particularly in-offensive first quarter, when it was still a game, the teams combined for two first downs, an 0-for-9 performance on third down, 82 total yards, 28 yards rushing and a 5-for-18 passing clinic. You could almost hear the TV ratings plummet.

Things improved in the second quarter, but only slightly. The Ravens and Giants were a combined 2-of-16 on third downs in the first half, and at the break had passed for 156 total yards.

All week long, we heard about two stout defenses and two castoff quarterbacks who might rate as among the least accomplished to ever make the Super Bowl.

So what did we get? Well, for the most part, two stout defenses and two castoff quarterbacks who might rate among the least accomplished to ever make the Super Bowl.

Dilfer had his moments -- two to be exact in the first half -- but both he and the Giants' Kerry Collins looked like they were trying to throw the ball in a wind tunnel for a good bit of the night. Passes fluttered to the ground. Passes sailed high and outside. Wide receivers who were wide open were missed by miles.

All in all, it almost made the case for being a soccer fan.

But alas, all was not lost in the course of watching that stupefying first half.

That running of the squirrels commercial? Pure unadulterated genius.

3. The Minnesota Vikings have got to be wondering where he went? Who kidnapped Kerry Collins and put that imposter in the Giants' No. 5 jersey?

Certainly the masked man who played Sunday against Baltimore wasn't the same guy who shredded Minnesota's defense for 380 yards passing, five touchdowns, and a 41-0 lead by early in the third quarter.

Against the Vikings, Collins looked cool, calm, and collected. He and the rest of the Giants played the near-perfect game, and Collins was the maestro who conducted it all.

Against the Ravens, Collins was lost, confused and the very opposite of the one of the big names in the halftime show, N'Sync.

Collins finished a humbling 15-of-39 for 112 yards, and his four interceptions (two in each half) tied a Super Bowl record. The kind of Super Bowl record one never wants to tie.

Collins had just 89 yards passing early in the fourth quarter, when the game was well put to bed, and he absorbed four sacks and a dozen other hits or hurries on the evening.

When he handled the story of his own personal travails so superbly this week, conventional wisdom said Collins would bear up against the pressure of the Super Bowl with just as much ease. But conventional wisdom never faced the Baltimore Ravens' defense.

After Sunday's debacle, Collins probably hopes he won't ever have to do so again as well.


 
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