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Breathtaking returns: Starks, Dixon, Lewis

In back-to-back-to-back plays in the third quarter, the three players total 230 yards and three touchdowns.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001


TAMPA -- Two decades from now, those who were here will tell those who weren't a litany of tall tales. They will say that at Super Bowl XXXV, on a Sunday when the Ravens dismantled the Giants 34-7, the defining moment was on this play or that.

For the benefit of those who didn't see the game, here's a candidate for the time capsule:

Late in the third quarter, the Giants fell behind 17-0 when Duane Starks intercepted a Kerry Collins pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. The Giants, desperately needing a big play, got it when receiver Ron Dixon ran the ensuing kickoff back for a breathtaking 97-yard touchdown return to make the score 17-7.

Just like that, the Giants were alive again.

Their players were energized.

Their fans, and their signature white towels, were bubbling.

Fifteen seconds later, Jermaine Lewis slapped them in the face.

Last month, Lewis was crushed when son Geronimo was stillborn.

He found a reason to smile on this cool night.

He fielded Brad Daluiso's kickoff at the Ravens 16 and began a most exhilarating run to redemption.

With teammates Corey Harris and Sam Gash providing downfield assistance, and Geronimo watching from above, Lewis dodged and deeked into history.

His 84-yard touchdown return not only negated Dixon's heroics, but sucked the life from New York for good.

There were other critical plays.

Take for instance Trent Dilfer's shining moment, a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley that gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead.

It was still early, and the lead was still just one touchdown, but for a man once possessed by Raymond James Stadium demons, the softly thrown deep ball that burned cornerback Jason Sehorn might as well have been an exorcism.

Then there was Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister's interception late in the second quarter. In a game dreadfully lacking offensive punch, the Giants seemed to be rolling toward erasing most of Baltimore's 10-0 lead. They combined a 16-yard reception by Dixon and a 27-yard run by Tiki Barber to get a first down at the Baltimore 29.

But on first down Collins tried to hit tight end Pete Mitchell in the end zone, only to see McAlister time his jump perfectly and intercept the pass at the 1.

With less than a minute left before halftime, the Ravens ran out the clock.

Happy returns

Kickoff returns for TDs in the Super Bowl:

Fulton Walker, Dolphins (98 yards vs. Redskins, 1983)

Stanford Jennings, Bengals (93 yards vs. 49ers, 1989)

Andre Coleman, Chargers (98 yards vs. 49ers, 1995)

Desmond Howard, Packers (99 yards vs. Patriots, 1997)

Tim Dwight, Falcons (94 yards vs. Broncos, 1999)

Ron Dixon, Giants (97 yards vs. Ravens, 2001)

Jermaine Lewis, Ravens (84 yards vs. Giants, 2001)

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