Ravens' defense stakes claim with all-time greats
By Desmond M. Wallace, CNNSI.com
They have allowed fewer points than any defense since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978. They have allowed fewer rushing yards per game than any defense since the NFL was formed 80 years ago.
And having allowed just one touchdown in their four postseason games en route to a 34-7 drubbing of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens' defense should now be able to stake its claim as one of football's all-time best.
While Baltimore's D may not have a catchy nickname like Minnesota's "Purple People Eaters" or Dallas' "Doomsday Defense" or Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain," by any name, Ray Lewis, Sam Adams, Rod Woodson, et al, compare quite favorably to any 11 defenders anywhere. As great as other D-units have been, this year's Ravens allowed more than 60 fewer yards per game than the vaunted 1975 Steelers, the 1978 Cowboys or 1985 Bears.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Giants found out first hand just how effective Baltimore's D really was. On the strength of more than 500 yards of offense, New York had just torched Minnesota 41-zip in the NFC Championship game. However, against the Ravens, the Giants managed a paltry 2.6 yards per play which translates to a measly 152 total yards -- one of the three best Super Bowl defensive efforts.
Only a third-quarter 97-yard kickoff return for a TD against Baltimore's special teams unit saved the Giants from being the first team in Super Bowl history to be shut out.
So if you're keeping score, in their four postseason contests against what should have been the NFL's best teams, the Ravens' ball-hawked the high-scoring Broncos, the defending AFC champion Titans, the AFC West-winning Raiders, and NFC champion Giants. Against that heralded final four, Baltimore surrendered 5.8 points per game (only 4.0 PPG actually came against the Ravens' D), forced 32 punts, and copped a dozen turnovers. And in the end, only six of 50 enemy possesions even made it to the Ravens' Red Zone.
While Baltimore's defensive unit may not yet be a household name, there isn't a single offense in pro football which could mistake the Ravens' treacherous defense for any other. Call them what you will. But as the Ravens demonstrated on Super Sunday, you must now also call them champions.