By BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 29, 2001
Tony Dungy, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and usually a backer of the NFC, predicted a 16-13 Baltimore victory based on his friendship with Ravens coach Brian Billick, with whom he served as assistant with at Minnesota, and his friendship with former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer. He offered this analysis to Times staff writer Brian Landman shortly after Super Bowl XXXV.
The game went a little differently than I thought it was going to go, but the Baltimore defense and the turnovers are what did it.
Once the Ravens got a 10-0 lead at halftime, I felt it was going to be very tough for the Giants. They had to abandon the run and then had to throw. That put one-dimensional plays right into Baltimore's hand. Either team getting behind by 10 points in this game was going to be big.
The first score was important, but the big play, I thought, was when Jessie Armstead's interception for a touchdown was called back on a holding call, which I honestly didn't see. The Giants might have been able to get back into the game with that.
But Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister's interception late in the half (at the Baltimore 1-yard line) was big, too. The Giants needed to get a score there; then it would have been a one-score game going into the second half. They didn't get that and it made it very difficult. The Giants had to go into the half closer.
I thought Trent Dilfer played really well. He missed a couple of throws early in the game, but he made the plays they needed to make. The Giants came up to the line and he got some single coverage, then took advantage of it. Dilfer made the throws to Brandon Stokley (a 38-yard touchdown) and Qadry Ismail (for 44 yards) to get the Ravens their first 10 points.
Kerry Collins didn't have a great game, but the Ravens defense had a lot to do with that. The Ravens did a great job of stuffing the run and that put pressure on Collins.
Obviously, third down was key. The Giants weren't able to convert third downs. (They were 2 of 14 for 14 percent compared to the Ravens 3 of 16 success). I really thought there'd be 20 punts total. (New York had 11, Baltimore had 10). Punting wasn't all bad in a game like this. But punting along with the five turnovers is hard to overcome.
Very hard to overcome.
After Duane Starks' interception return in the third quarter, you just didn't get the feeling the Giants would be able to score. Then after Ron Dixon's return, Jermaine Lewis' kickoff return put the game out of reach.
Am I surprised Ray Lewis was named the MVP? That's hard to say. The front four really stuffed the run, McAlister, Starks and (Kim) Herring had interceptions. I think you could have given the award to the whole defense. But Ray Lewis is definitely the ringleader of the defense.