The Baltimore Ravens may not have the longest history in the NFL, but they certainly have some interesting moments. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were far from perfect-they may not have even been the best team in the league that season-but they are, without question, everyone's favorite Ravens team.
And no, a Super Bowl ring is not the only reason.
Here are 10 reasons the 2000 season will always be a Baltimore fan's favorite.
The 2000 Ravens were young, inexperienced and the franchise had never even made the playoffs, let alone won a Super Bowl. That's why, when a possible playoff birth entered the picture mid-season, Brian Billick stepped onto his soap box and put forward a decree: the word "playoffs" did not exist for this team until the birth had been secured.
Enter Tony Siragusa. The jovial anchor to the Ravens defensive line, the Goose offered the team, and the fans, a way around Billick's swear-jar ways. Siragusa proposed that the team simply use the word "Festivus" to substitute for that 'p' word they weren't supposed to say.
The theme captivated the city. Still today, as January nears, you can hear Baltimore fans celebrating the arrival of Festivus. The term gave the team and the city its first inside joke. Billick gave everyone a little bit of motivation.
He was the pint-sized wide receiver that no one saw coming. Jermaine Lewis stood only 5 foot, 7 inches. In nine years in the NFL, Lewis amassed only 143 catches. But given the ball off a kick, and Lewis could turn heads.
Lewis was hardly unheard of during the Ravens 2000 Super Bowl run. In 1998, he had made the Pro-Bowl and been voted a 1st team All-Pro for his prowess on punt returns. For the Ravens in 2000, however, punt returns were about his only duty. Lewis was even the back-up on kick-offs.
In the Super Bowl, the Ravens were dominating early. With the score 10-0 in the third quarter, Duane Starks intercepted Kerry Collins for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 17-0 lead and really begin the rout. But on the ensuing kick-off, Ron Dixon ran the kick back 97 for New York and gave the Giants some hope.
That's when Lewis stepped onto the field. Not to be outdone, Lewis returned the Giants kick 84 yards for his own score and reestablished the Ravens17-point lead. In a matter of just seconds on the game clock, three touchdowns were scored.
Baltimore never looked back.
Shannon Sharpe came to Baltimore in 2000 to help the Ravens find their "swagger." He did it.
Sharpe's mouth was big enough to match his Hall of Fame resume, and he brought both with him to the Ravens. He told the league the Ravens were ready to win and he proved it.
Sharpe made perhaps the two biggest catches of the Ravens season.
First, in Week Two in Baltimore, the Ravens won their first game ever against the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens defense gave up 36 points, by far the most of any game that season. And it was Sharpe who caught a 29 yard touchdown pass from Tony Banks to seal the victory with just seconds remaining.
Then, in the AFC Championship game against Oakland, Sharpe again made his presence felt. In a scoreless game in the second quarter, with the Ravens pressed against their own goal line, Sharpe caught a pass from Trent Dilfer over the middle of the field. 96 yards later the Ravens had the games only touchdown.
What's a story without some drama?
Trent Dilfer will forever be remembered as the quarterback that won the Ravens first Super Bowl. To some outsiders, he is perhaps the worst quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl. And today, playing it safe and letting your defense do the dirty work might well be known as "Dilfering."
But it is often forgotten that Dilfer started the 2000 season on the Ravens bench. Tony Banks was Brian Billick's starter and for eight weeks he led the team, amassing a 5-3 record.
It wasn't Banks' record that got him benched. It was the offense's legendary scoring drought. Banks quarterbacked the team to four straight games without a touchdown - and somehow the team managed to win two of them.
With the playoffs in the team's sights, back-to-back losses had Brian Billick and the city on edge. Something had to change.
Dilfer would replace Banks in Week Nine and lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He wouldn't lose again.
It may seem unusual to put an opponent into a countdown about the Ravens greatest season, but what would the 2000 season be without the Tennessee Titans?
The Ravens and Titans met three times during the 2000 campaign. They split the regular season series in a pair of brutal games, each team winning while on the road.
In Baltimore in Week Eight, the Titans held the Ravens to field goals for the fourth straight game. Tony Banks, in his final start of the season, threw three interceptions. Still, behind their defense, the Ravens lost only 14-6.
In Tennessee in Week 11, the Ravens got their revenge. In a back and forth battle, the Ravens came out victorious 24-23 on a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer to Patrick Johnson. It was Tennesse's first and only home loss of the regular season.
The third game of the series came in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, again in Tennessee. The game redefined smashmouth football. And while the Titans dominated the game in yardage and time of possession (holding the ball for over 40 minutes), the Ravens won 24-10. The game still haunts many Titans fans and Al Del Greco's meltdown, missing a kick while having two others blocked, is still talked about.
But perhaps the best part of the Ravens-Titans brawls was the fact that not only did the players hate each other, but the coaches as well. The press conference pot shots coming from Brian Billick and Jeff Fisher made every game that much more interesting.
His arrogance is legendary. His biting wit, belittling. His blow-ups, hysterical. And his vocabulary... confusing.
He is Brian Billick.
Billick joined the Ravens in 1999 and immediately changed the personality of the entire organization. Billick expected to not only compete, but to win. He had an answer to every question, even if no one knew what he was saying. And there was no reporter who left a post-game press conference unscathed.
Billick brought a lot to the Ravens and the 2000 season, but most memorable is his response to a reporter's question about why he and his team were always so happy to get under an opponent's skin. Billick responded, in classic Billick fashion, with this:
"When you go in the lions den you don't tippy toe in. You carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee, you kick whatever doors in, and say, 'where's the SOB.' If you go in any other way your gonna lose."
For five straight games the 2000 Ravens failed to score a single touchdown. The press had a field day, playing on the Ravens namesake, saying the team could "neverscore."
Somehow, though, the Ravens managed to win two of those touchdown-free games - on the leg of Matt Stover.
Stover's 2000 season was the best of his career. He made 35 of 39 kicks, including two from beyond 50 yards, and scored a career-high 135 points. He led the league in field goals made, was second in total points, was voted a first team All-Pro and selected for the Pro-Bowl.
Stover was already a fan favorite, but his efforts in the 2000 season and took his local popularity to a new level. For the Ravens entire existence, fans have said simply, "In Stover We Trust."
As mentioned above, the Raven-Titans rivalry in 2000 is part of what made the season great. But out of the three times the teams faced each other that year, one singular moment stands out as the most defining.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Ravens had a slim 17-10 lead and the Titans were beginning to drive. The Ravens had just taken the lead on a dizzying blocked field goal return for a touchdown, but no one believed the seven point lead was entirely safe.
With just under seven minutes left, the Titans approached midfield. Steve McNair dropped back, Eddie George came out of the backfield and into the box near the right tackle. In a flash, Lewis read the pay, stepped forward and wrestled the ball from George's hands, running 50 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
Anyone who has ever seen the play remembers it. Many fans from both teams believe that play effectively ended Eddie George's career. And the image of Lewis, practically running in slow motion he was so tired, falling into the end zone still defines the entire season.
165. If you didn't know, that's how many points the Ravens defense gave up in the 2000 season. Add in their four-game playoff run and that number jumps only slightly to 188.
The previous record in a 16-game season had been held by the extraordinary Chicago Bears, who allowed 198 points.
The Ravens posted four shutouts and, despite a relatively worthless offense, won eight games by more than 10 points. In the playoffs, their closest margin of victory was 13.
You know the stats. Everyone does. What made this defense truly special to watch was the fact that everyone knew they were watching something special. The combination of veteran leaders and energetic youth was downright magical. The whole unit played as if it knew it was going to win a Super Bowl.
Ironically, the Ravens prime rival, the Titans, also broke the scoring record in 2000. But not by enough.
What could make this team more memorable and more important than its coach, its great plays and even its record-setting defense?
How about the way the team transformed a city.
Football and Baltimore have had a long history and, unfortunately, not always a pleasant one. The arrival of the Ravens in 1996 rejuvenated a sports town that, at that point, was down to just one professional franchise. The town immediately rediscovered its love of football.
But the 2000 season truly painted the city purple. Driving down Howard Street or through any of Baltimore's historic neighborhoods, be they yuppy-central or blue-collar, the Ravens were on everyone's mind. And everyone's cars... and shirts... and houses. Businesses and city buildings even changed their outdoor lights, draping the skyline in a haunting purple glow.
The 2000 Ravens had this city on the edge of combustion and they didn't let anyone down.