Is History About To Repeat Itself?
The Ravens jubilantly celebrated. The Patriots headed off the field, heads down and despondent. The football gods watched on.
Baltimore’s victory over New England on Sunday proved to be yet another upset in a season that has become all too familiar with the underdog coming through.
Having wrested a 10-point advantage from the Denver Broncos a week earlier, the underdog Ravens not only covered a 10-point spread this weekend, but smashed it in the teeth and left it to bleed on the field.
Baltimore now advances to Super Bowl XVLII, to be played at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, La., on Feb. 3.
With the scoreboard reading 28-13 and the clock reaching 0:00, a feeling of familiarity hung above Gillette Stadium. Sure, memories of the 2000 Baltimore side that lifted the Vince Lombardi trophy aloft came to memory, but this wasn’t just a matter of a team returning to the Promised Land after a wait of more than a decade, this was something else.
It’s only when you sit down and look at the numbers that you realize what that something else is.
Baltimore’s road to the Super Bowl this season has followed that path set out by its predecessor back at the turn of the century, and almost uncannily so.
In 2000, the Ravens made the postseason for the first time in franchise history – remember; the Browns franchise records stayed in Cleveland after the team bolted for Baltimore – after securing a No. 4 seed in the AFC, the same No. 4 seed the Ravens secured this year. Of course, things were a little different back then, with only three divisions, but a No. 4 seed is a No. 4 seed at the end of the day.
During the wild-card round, the Ravens handed No. 5 seeded Denver a lopsided 21-3 defeat. This season, the Ravens handed Indianapolis a lopsided 24-9 defeat.
Back in 2000, or 2001 as it was by the time the sides took to the field, the Ravens upended No. 1 seed Tennessee. This season, No. 1 Denver took a fall. Granted, the 2000 Ravens beat the Titans by 14 whereas this year’s team came out by the skin of their teeth in overtime, but a No. 1 seed is a No. 1 seed when it comes to scalps.
Then, in the 2000 AFC championship game, the Ravens beat the second-ranked Raiders by 13. This season, as we saw on Sunday, the second-ranked Patriots went down by 15.
So, the question has to be asked, will history repeat itself this weekend?
Baltimore will take on a San Francisco side coming off a come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons. Now this is where history is a little different. San Francisco is the No.2 ranked side in the NFC. In Super Bowl XXXV, Baltimore faced a No. 1 ranked New York Giants team. But that only makes it easier for the Ravens to repeat, right?
Stalwart fans and critics alike will tell you of the impressive record San Francisco has heading into New Orleans. The 49ers enter Super Bowl XLVII with a 5-0 record in the big game. That’s enough to install more than a little fear in the Ravens, right?
Well, listen to this; the 2000 New York Giants had a 2-0 Super Bowl record heading into the game on Jan. 28, 2001.The Ravens made mincemeat of the Giants, handing the New York side its first (and as it stands, only) loss in the big game. Fear nothing.
The Ravens and Giants entered Super Bowl XXXV very close in offensive numbers. The Ravens ranked 14th in scoring to New York’s 15th. This season? The Ravens finished 10th in scoring whilst the Niners finished 11th.
The 2000 Ravens won by an average of 18 points per game over the first three contests in the 2000 playoffs. This postseason, the Ravens have won by an average of 11 points. While that may not be to the standards of that turn of the century side, those numbers are outstanding considering the point spreads that have been served up.
Those numbers are starting to suggest that history may well be getting ready to repeat itself, but then again…
In 2000, Baltimore’s defense was menacing. The side led the league in points allowed – setting a league record while it was at it – and was second in yards allowed. That side limited teams to just 5.8 points per game during the playoffs!
This season it is San Francisco that has been the dominant defensive side, ranking second in points allowed and third in yards allowed. That’s a case of role reversal right there.
Furthermore, in 2000, Baltimore began the season with Tony Banks under center. Banks was replaced by Trent Dilfer, who led the team charging into the postseason. Sound familiar? What happened to Alex Smith this season? Maybe we’ve got another case of role reversal here.
There’s another big difference heading into next month’s all-important game. Super Bowl XXXV saw the Ravens enter as 3-point favorites, a result of that punishing defense. This year, bookmakers prefer San Francisco, who opened as 5-point favorites. If the Ravens are to win this season, they’ll need to cover the spread. But then again, they’ve done that for the last three weeks.
Fans of the game might prefer if history doesn’t repeat itself though.
Super Bowl XXXV was a very one-sided affair, with Baltimore shutting out the New York offense for the entire game, a game that had only a few moments of real excitement.
The Giants’ only score in a 34-7 hammering was a 97-yard Ron Dixon kickoff return. That play came directly after Duane Starks had intercepted the Giants’ Kerry Collins and returned the ball 49 yards for a score. The Giants’ kickoff return was then immediately followed by Jermaine Lewis running back an 84-yard kickoff for the Ravens. 21 points in 0:45 was undoubtedly exciting, but the rest of the game was pretty much a snorefest.
Raven fans want a repeat of history. San Francisco fans want a repeat of history of a different kind. Neutral fans want a good game.
Whether history repeats itself or not, here’s hoping that Super Bowl XLVII proves to be anything but a snorefest.