The Big Twenty

The Big Twenty: Ravens ride all-time great defense to first Super Bowl in franchise history

The Big Twenty

If you want to get a sense of how the Ravens built their first championship team, look no further than their five Pro Bowl selections.

A defensive tackle, middle linebacker, safety, offensive tackle and kicker represented Baltimore in Hawaii that year, highlighting the Ravens’ emphasis on physical players up the middle and in the trenches.

Baltimore has a reputation as a tough, hard-nosed city that most appreciates tough, hard-nosed football. It’s fitting, then, that the first Super Bowl in Ravens history was won on the backs of perhaps the greatest defense in NFL history.

Just five years after professional football returned to Charm City, the 2000 Ravens found themselves on top of the football world. For a fanbase still bitter about the departure of the Colts nearly two decades earlier, the Ravens’ championship legitimized the franchise in a city desperate for good football.

Led by Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis, the Ravens clamped down on offense after offense en route to one of the most statistically-dominant seasons of all time.

The 2000 Ravens allowed just 10.3 points per game, an astonishing number that set the record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season in NFL history. The record still stands today, and given the offensive environment football finds itself in, likely will for a very long time.

They shut out a record four opponents and allowed 20 points just three times during the season. After a three-game losing streak in October culminating with a 9-6 home loss to the Steelers, the Ravens reeled off 11 straight wins, including four in the postseason.


In those 11 wins, they allowed 90 total points.

No, that’s not a typo. They allowed 8.2 points per game. No wonder they didn’t lose a game for three months.

Of course, the finishing touches on a legendary season came, as always, in January. The Ravens allowed double-digit points just once in four postseason games, when they allowed a whopping 10 points in the divisional round.

Their other points allowed totals? Three, three and seven -- 23 points allowed in the whole month.

It wasn’t just the defense, as Jamal Lewis barreled his way to 1,364 rushing yards and Shannon Sharpe led the team in receiving with 810 yards on the season, providing some semblance of offense.

But the 2000 Ravens will forever be remembered for breaking the will of opposing offenses. Their first championship in Baltimore is inextricably linked to its record-setting defense, and Ravens fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you asked fans in Baltimore to describe their perfect football team, it’s fair to assume most would start with one word: defense. The 2000 Ravens are on the shortlist of all-time great NFL defenses, making them the perfect first champions of the new century.