For a team in its infancy, the Baltimore Ravens found themselves playing for the Lombardi trophy faster than any new franchise in NFL history.
After a 12-4 regular-season record in the team's fifth year of existence, the Ravens rode a vaunted defense all the way to the Super Bowl to square off with a Giants team led by Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan and running back Tiki Barber.
Spearheaded by linebacker Ray Lewis, the Baltimore defense allowed only 165 points in the regular season, surpassing the historic 1986 Chicago Bears for the lowest total allowed in NFL history. After allowing only one touchdown in the first three games of the playoffs, the defensive unit cemented itself in the ranks of the all-time greats on football's biggest stage.
The Ravens and Giants met at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, and the cover of the game program featured a photo of the Lombardi Trophy in front of the Florida skyline.
Despite a monster offensive performance in a 41-0 rout of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship, the Giants could manage only 149 yards of total offense against the stout Baltimore defense. The Ravens pressured Giants quarterback Kerry Collins all night, forcing a Super Bowl-record four interceptions. Collins was also sacked four times, and finished just 15-39 for 112 yards.
"I'm biased, but who cares," Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick said following the victory. "Who's going to tell me they're not the best defense ever? I'll argue that to my death."
Lewis, whose five tackles, four deflected passes and disruptive pass rush earned him Super Bowl MVP honors, captured the historic nature of the defensive unit.
"We not only broke records, we shattered them," Lewis said. "We did something this season that was unbelievable. Any time our defense goes on the field, and they go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, you know they've got a problem."
The 34-7 triumph gave the Ravens their first championship, and set a standard for winning still engrained in the organization 15 years later.