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

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

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.

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How Eric DeCosta, staff plan to build out the Ravens’ draft board during quarantine

How Eric DeCosta, staff plan to build out the Ravens’ draft board during quarantine

When the NFL Draft happens on April 23, the best technology available will be at the Ravens’ staff’s fingertips. 

They’ll also have to conduct the draft more like what was conducted in the 1980s as compared to present day. 

With league-wide shutdowns of team facilities, all NFL teams will have to conduct their own drafts with each individual front office member in their homes. In a way, that means it’s business as usual for the Ravens. 

“I don’t think it’s really going to be that much different than we’ve been accustomed to,” general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We had the opportunity to meet with so many different players at the Senior Bowl and the East-West combine, we really prepared to be the best we can be. The thing we come back to, it’s been this way ever since I know I got into the league, it’s really about the tape, how the guy plays.”

The Ravens will have to navigate the draft, though, without a traditional war room for the staff to congregate in. There, they’ll have to make draft choices and trades remotely.

“We did a lot of work in person in February and also in December to get ready for these meetings,” DeCosta said. “There are some challenges associated, nothing major, but we’re excited for the opportunity and we think it’s going to work out well for us.”

The draft board this year, DeCosta said, will have 185 players that they consider to be “draftable” players for the Ravens. Of that number, 25 of which are wide receivers. He’ll have to make those selections over Zoom, the video-conferencing service. 


Coach John Harbaugh’s mind isn’t exactly at ease over Zoom, either. 

“Every time I read something in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is or some of these other deals that came out this morning, I immediately text it to our IT people,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we’ll be okay. I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings.”

The draft board and meetings that Harbaugh would like to keep internally will assuredly discuss the bevy of wide receivers available in this year’s class. Three first-round locks appear to be two Alabama receivers, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, and Ceedee Lamb of Oklahoma. 

Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins and Jalen Reagor all could find themselves picked in the first 32 selections, too.

“There’s a lot of really good players, obviously the receivers class is prolific by many people’s standards," DeCosta said. "There’s probably 25 draft-able wideouts in this draft. Very very talented running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends. We’re going to look at the board, we’re going to assess the strengths and weaknesses at every position when we’re on the clock.”

Baltimore has nine picks in the draft, including seven in the first four rounds. While the opportunity of trading up, or down, exists, DeCosta wasn’t shy about what those picks could mean for the Ravens in the 2020 season. 

“I think with the influx of juniors every year, we see that drafts tend to be stronger in the last five-to-seven years than they have been,” DeCosta said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys this year we feel like will have a really good opportunity with our first seven picks to really get some outstanding football players that can come in immediately and pay dividends for us.”

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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Ravens GM Eric DeCosta when asked about Antonio Brown: ‘I think I’ll just leave that one alone’

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta when asked about Antonio Brown: ‘I think I’ll just leave that one alone’

The Ravens’ front office typically holds franchise secrets pretty tightly. Some of the most notable players on the roster, though, are less covert. 

Last week, Lamar Jackson and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown were seen running routes and working out with free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown in Florida. The three posed for a picture and posted videos on Instagram of a portion of the workout. 

Antonio and Marquise are cousins and were previously pictured working out together as well.

At a pre-draft conference call, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta addressed both the situation and rumors that the team might be interested.

“Those are in-house things,” DeCosta said. “Those are my feelings, personal feelings, about that situation. I don’t really feel the need to share that with you all right now.”


Antonio Brown is under investigation from the NFL for accusations of rape and sexual assault, brought forward by his former trainer Britney Taylor in a civil suit. Brown has filed a countersuit. 

He is also facing charges of felony burglary conveyance, misdemeanor battery, and misdemeanor criminal mischief. He hasn’t played a game since Week 2 of 2019, after which he was released by the Patriots. 

The move came on the heels of his controversial trade and release from Oakland.

“And as far as free-agent players, we wouldn’t talk about those guys right now,” DeCosta continued. “It doesn’t really serve any purpose for us to talk about players that are available right now. There’s really no benefit to do that, so I think I’ll just leave that one alone.”

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.