Tuesday, February 2

Super Bowl Countdown #16: Super Bowl XXXV

During the two weeks preceding the Super Bowl, I will be counting down the best Super Bowls I have witnessed in my lifetime, starting in 1988. I created a ranking system and will go game by game reliving each edition until the top Super Bowl is listed.

Every Super Bowl is memorable, but some have components that put them in the "all-time" category. This Super Bowl was all about the Ravens' defense which been the key to success all season long and was in this game. It may be hard to call them definitively the best NFL defense of all time, but they are in the discussion. The Tampa Tear-up is next.

Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7

Semi-Lame Nickname: "Festivus Maximus" Brian Billick had imposed a no utterance of the words "playoffs" or "postseason" so Baltimore started using the term Festivus instead. While that is fine, going the next step and calling the big game your own twist on the nickname, not so much.

Historical Significance- 3.5: The Ravens had the chance to put the exclamation on their record setting defense, which allowed a record 165 points in the regular season. The city of Baltimore was also after their first Super Bowl since the Colts won it 30 years prior before hopping the Mayflower out of town. The Giants went from mid-season flubs to winning 7 in a row on the way to reaching their 3rd Super Bowl.

Game Enjoyment by the Fans- 3: There were fireworks early in the 2nd half, but the Giants were only close once and after the 2nd quarter were never within one possession.

High Profile Element- 4: The Ravens defense was coached by Marvin Lewis, with Rex Ryan a defensive assistant. The line was anchored by Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, who beached himself onto Rich Ganon in the AFC Championship game. Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, and Ray Lewis were at linebacker and the backfield had Chris McAlister and Duane Starks before they became stale and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. The offense was much less to write home about even though Brian Billick came in as an offensive "guru" from working with the Vikings during their record-setting points scored season in 1998. Trent Dilfer, who became the go-to reference for a game-managing Super Bowl QB, lead the 16th ranked offense. Shannon Sharpe was galloping around at tight end in the passing game. The Ravens were run-oriented with Jamal Lewis and Priest Holmes at RB. The Ravens entered the game as a wild-card winner in the AFC yet they were 3 point favorites, because of the defense.

The Giants came out of nowhere 3/4 of the way through the season. Sitting at 7-4, Jim Fassel went to the podium after a loss to the Lions and gave his poker euphemism about making the playoffs. It is at 1:20 in the video below but the whole video is great, although Coors commercials have tainted the fun.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

Man I love that Ditka sound bite, "What do you care?!" Either the reporter baited him by asking why he was in a bad mood or the dude was an idiot.

Kerry Collins arose from the ashes to lead the Giants during the season. At this point, years before he took over for Vince Young, Collins was considered a wash-out. He had documented drinking problems, clashes with teammates and innuendos of racism with Carolina and was considered a semi-pariah. Collins was aided by Tiki Barber in the backfield and Amani Toomer no the outside. Strahan and Ken Hamilton anchored the defense and Jason Sehorn helped contribute to the teams' 14 interceptions. In the divisional round, Sehorn had this memorable pick of McNabb that helped the Giants to a 20-10 win.

The Giants then roasted the Vikings 41-0 in the championship game.

Venue/Atmosphere- 3: The pregame show was titled "Life is Super in Central Florida". The only thing I can say on that is that of all the places in Central Florida, which I find detestable overall, Tampa is the least offensive. Who better to convey this message than Sting, Styx, and PYT? Ray Charles celebrated 225 years of America by singing his sweet version of 'America the Beautiful'. The Backstreet Boys sung the national anthem.....no comment. The halftime show was what most people remember about the entertainment. Aerosmith was the headline band, with Mary J. Blige, Nelly, Brittney Spears and NSYNC. Bonus, this was when Brittney was still smoking.

Personal Enjoyment- 3: The game was a semi-snoozer but if you were a fan of defense as they say, and I was of this Baltimore defense, it was a dominating performance.

Cleet's Rating Index: 17.5

Where I Was: While I was in college at Miami, this was the Super Bowl I remember the least. Many people were discussing Ray Lewis, because of his legal problems and his association with the U.

What Happened in the World: Two days before the game an earthquake hit Gujarat, India which killed 12,000 people. Not Haiti-like numbers but tectonic plates are not be messed with.

Record of Note: The Giants had every single offensive possession end in failure. Collins threw 4 picks, there were 11 punts, and one fumble was lost.

Game MVP: Ray Lewis. How fun is it for people to make stabbing jokes! The truth is that Lewis was seen as a peacemaker who tried to restrain his friends that night after Super Bowl 29 in Atlanta. His testimony was never refuted with any proof and his guilty charge was obstruction of justice for initially not cooperating when his two friends got arrested. Lewis has admitted he was not living on the straight and narrow, but the close call with incarceration put him on the path to better living and better play on the field.

LVP: Giants offense. Even while going up against one of the best defenses, you have to put some offensive points on the board, especially when you just notched 41 points the game prior. Even the Patriots put 10 on the '86 Bears.

Most Memorable Play: In the 3rd quarter after Duane Starks returned a TD to the house making it 17-0, Ron Dixon took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a TD which breathed life into the Giants. The glimmer was put out on the next ensuing kickoff that was taken 84 yards by Jermaine Lewis.

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