By GARY SHELTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 15, 2001
E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- And now, a word about the Super Bowl.
This is what we have. Grunts vs. groans. A great defense against an even better one. A mediocre offense against an even worse one. A quarterback thrown onto the discount rack against the guy he landed on.
This is your Super Bowl, Tampa Bay.
The Giants vs. the Ravens.
And heeeeeeeeere they come.
New York vs. Baltimore. It could be 1958 all over again, except the offenses aren't as progressive. Best linebacker gets a car. Best placekicker goes to Disney World.
You want another word about the Super Bowl? Courtesy of Giants owner Wellington Mara, we bring you ... "ugly."
"We were the ugliest team ever to get the home-field advantage, and we were the ugliest team ever to win a conference championship," Mara said. "Now we're going to be the ugliest team ever to win a Super Bowl."
Which is, of course, possible. The early betting numbers out of Vegas favor the Ravens by 21/2, but here's a guess at the over-under:
This could be the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all-time. One touchdown might win it, and two might be running up the score. Consider the Giants' defense, which doesn't give up many yards. Consider the Ravens' defense, which doesn't give up many inches. Consider that for all of the Ravens' games, and for most of the Giants', the teams have barely tried on offense.
Yes, the Giants lit it up Sunday. Kerry Collins, unchained, threw 39 times for 382 yards and five touchdowns. But that was against the Vikings, where the route to victory is over the cornerback's head. Against the Ravens, you can expect the Giants to take all of their statistics, wad them into a ball, and toss them in the bin. Expect the Giants to return to such a conservative offense that the game plan may be painted on a cave wall.
The reasoning is this. Neither team is going to think it will take a huge amount of points to win. Neither team is going to want to turn the ball over. Both will play field position, even if it means punting on third down. Maybe second, if there is rain. Somehow, it is possible to see a 6-6 score with three minutes to play.
"It's going to be one hell of a football game," Giants coach Jim Fassel said.
What else can you expect from this Super Bowl?
Expect Jamal Lewis off-tackle ... even on third and 9.
Expect Shannon Sharpe talking ... especially on third and 9.
Expect Collins to talk about how rough he has had it. And expect Trent Dilfer to say "Yeah? Well, I played here."
Expect Fassel to predict the Giants will win the Super Bowl, the Devil Rays will win 65 games, Russell Crowe will win best actor and the numbers "5-21-33-9-17-4" will win the Lotto.
Expect Brian Billick to praise Dilfer on his way to meeting Brad Johnson for dinner.
Expect Mara and Art Modell to get into a shoving match at Bern's. Well, okay. Maybe not.
Expect old warrior Lomas Brown, now a Giant, grinning over finally being in a Super Bowl ... and Harry Swayne of the Ravens grinning along.
Expect Alan Ameche at the goal line.
Expect a limo driver at the airport with a sign that reads "Ray Lewis." You can imagine Billick getting into the car with him, just to be sure.
Expect Dilfer throwing for 86 yards ... whether the Ravens need it or not.
Expect every aging celebrity you can imagine to hang around the Giants' locker room, which appears to be the new Love Boat.
Expect Jessie Armstead and Lewis arguing over the best linebacker produced by the University of Miami. Hint: Neither is going to suggest "Ted Hendricks."
Expect Tony Siragusa to have seconds.
Expect Lawrence Taylor to visit Tampa but to give St. Petersburg a miss.
Expect Michael Strahan to announce that, if he wins, he's going to run against Hillary Clinton in the next election.
Expect Cleveland to rent a movie.
Expect a party at Trent's house.
This is your Super Bowl, Tampa Bay. It is not one that will be defined by its offensive firepower. It will be a lot of pushing, a lot of pulling, a lot of gnashing of teeth. With timeout for lots of commercials.
In the end, someone kicks a field goal to be a hero and to capture the heart of the country.
Personally, I expect it to be Dilfer.
Trent Dilfer becomes the fourth ex-Bucs quarterback to reach the Super Bowl. Two made history, all three threw for more than 200 yards:
(Game, Ex-Bucs quarterback, Score, Result)
XXII Doug Williams, Redskins W, 42-10 18-29, 340 yards, 4 TDs, MVP
XXIX Steve Young, 49ers W, 49-26 24-36, 325 yards, 6 TDs, MVP
XXXIII Chris Chandler, Falcons L, 34-19 19-35, 219 yards, 3 INT, 1 TD