In what was a trying and emotional year for linebacker Ray Lewis, the ending to the 2000-01 season gave the future Hall of Famer a sense of a higher power navigating him through adversity.
Lewis was plagued by off-field issues for most of the year, but overcame the scrutiny to help lead one of the most fearsome defenses in league history to the Super Bowl.
"To be where I was last year and to hear everyone say that it's going to affect me, I had a higher power that said everything's going to be all right," said Lewis, who was named Super Bowl MVP. "And that's why I'm here right now. If you put this in a storybook, nobody would believe it." Featuring Lewis, Peter Boulware, Tony Siragusa, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister and Rod Woodson, the Ravens wreaked havoc on the opposition in the regular season. Baltimore broke the historic 1985 Chicago Bears defense's record for points allowed in a season, producing four shutouts and finishing with a 12-4 record. The defense was as good as advertised on the biggest stage, as Baltimore steamrolled the New York Giants 34-7 en route to the franchise's first Super Bowl.
"This is the best defense ever," tight end Shannon Sharpe said following the victory. "What a day for Ray Lewis. After everything he's been through, he deserves this."
Lewis' Super Bowl MVP nod was just the seventh time in league history that a defensive player earned the honor, and capped off a historic season for the legend, who also received a Defensive Player of the Year award.
"If the world wants to see me stumble now," Lewis said. "I'll stumble with a [Super Bowl] ring on my finger."
The ring in question? A three-carat, 200-diamond masterpiece crafted by Jostens to honor the Ravens' extraordinary season.