Dilfer paused to acknowledge the wonder of his statement; Stokley, a second-year backup from Louisiana-Lafayette, entered the Super Bowl with a total of 15 catches, two for touchdowns, while playing in only 10 games this season. "He'll get into the end zone," Dilfer insisted. "You mark my words."
On Sunday, with 6:57 left in a scoreless first quarter and the ball at the Giants' 38, Stokley lined up in the right slot for a play called Scat-left Double-pump. New York's best cornerback, Jason Sehorn, was covering Stokley in the spread formation. Stokley beat Sehorn off the ball, Dilfer delivered a perfect pass that Stokley caught in stride at the 10, and the 5'11", 197-pound receiver dragged Sehorn into the end zone. Late in the second quarter Dilfer, who completed 12 of 25 passes for 153 yards, floated another brilliant pass to wideout Qadry Ismail down the left sideline. The 44-yard gain set up a 47-yard field goal by Matt Stover that gave Baltimore a 10-0 halftime lead.
By then Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris might have been tempted to certify the Ravens as Super Bowl victors. Ten points isn't normally considered an insurmountable advantage, but in Baltimore's case, giving them such an edge is tantamount to spotting Tiger Woods five strokes on the final day of a major. The Ravens, after all, had talked openly about producing the first shutout in Super Bowl history. (Only a 97-yard Ron Dixon kickoff return would prevent their doing so.) Digging into a crab-cake appetizer on the Wednesday before the game at Armani's, a posh Tampa restaurant, Rob Burnett, Baltimore's vastly underrated defensive end, made his prediction by quoting from rapper Jay-Z's latest hit: "Zip, zero—stingy with dinero."
For all the Ravens' defensive accomplishments this season—only 165 points given up, a league record for a 16-game schedule; a total of 16 points surrendered to three AFC playoff opponents; extending to 36 their string of games in which they didn't allow a 100-yard rusher—defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis saved his best work for last. Baltimore made a mockery of New York quarterback Kerry Collins (LIFE OF REILLY, page 108), intercepting him four times (including cornerback Duane Starks's 49-yard touchdown return in the third quarter), sacking him four times and allowing only 15 completions and 112 passing yards in 39 attempts. Giants running back Tiki Barber netted 49 yards on 11 carries, the latter figure matching the Super Bowl—record number of punts by New York's Brad Maynard.
If ever a man proved his worth as a future head coach, Marvin Lewis did it with this complete domination of the Giants in their 16 possessions: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, interception, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, end of game. The Giants went three-and-out (or worse) on 10 of those possessions. "We let the Giants do all their shifting and waited for them to come to us," Marvin Lewis said. "Of course, Ray stuffed everything. He just keeps rewriting the linebacker position."
Think Jack Lambert meets Lawrence Taylor, and that was Ray Lewis on Sunday. He got his hands on five Collins passes, one of which was tipped to linebacker Jamie Sharper for a second-quarter interception. He had five tackles and was better in space than Captain Kirk. Lewis's signature play came two plays after Stokley's touchdown. On second-and-eight from the New York 16, Barber, the Giants' quick scatback, broke free toward the left sideline and prepared to turn the corner. Lewis motored from the middle of the field and made a diving tackle, stopping Barber for a two-yard gain.
After running wild against the Vikings, New York wideouts Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer were non-factors, combining for 54 yards on five catches. After the game, as he lifted his arms to allow a team doctor to examine his aching ribs, Hilliard winced and said, "Even though I face a great defense in practice every day, I have to tip my hat to the Ravens—especially the way I feel."
Said Baltimore defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, "Until you play us, you can't really appreciate the depth of our wrath."
Emotionally, it all stems from Ray Lewis. Players still talk about the day late last season when he missed a practice with a knee injury. Recalled Banks, "The defense was a shell of itself. He came back the next day, and it was great again."
When you play the Ravens, Lewises come from everywhere: Marvin, scheming from the sideline; Ray, dominating on defense; rookie running back Jamal, who had 27 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown; and return specialist Jermaine, who instantly closed the Giants' window of hope by answering Dixon's score with an 84-yard kickoff runback for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead. Twenty-four/seven: that's how they work in Ravenland.