Giants and Ravens line up for defensive battle

With the Ravens determined to back up their claim as the best defense in NFL history and the Giants defense looking for respect, points should be at a premium when Baltimore and New York clash in Super Bowl XXXV on Sunday.

Last year's Super Bowl, a nail-biter won by the St Louis Rams when the Tennessee Titans fell a yard short of forcing overtime on the last play, will be a tough act to follow.

But 10 years after Tampa hosted the closest Super Bowl, a 20-19 Giants victory over Buffalo, pundits and players are predicting the lowest scoring affair in the game's 35-year history.

"It will probably be a suspenseful drama," said defensive end Michael Strahan, one of the leaders of the Giants defense.

"Whoever scores first could win. Whoever scores three points could win. This is going to be a defensive battle and anybody that truly loves football and understands will enjoy it," he added.

The Ravens have been installed as three-point favourites and some Baltimore players have suggest that might be a big enough score to clinch victory.

"If those guys are ready to play, we might only need two points," boasted Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe.

The Ravens and Giants were not among the favourites to make a trip to Tampa Bay at start of season.

Baltimore went 8-8 last season, while the 7-9 Giants appeared to be a team in disarray. Each staged dramatic a turnaround this season and both ended the regular season with impressive 12-4 records.

Giants running back Tiki Barber said the matching records are not the only similarities.

"Both these teams have overpowering defenses and offenses that have been inconsistent at times," he said.

The often anaemic Ravens offense went five straight games in October without scoring a touchdown and yet, on the back of their excellent defense, still managed two victories.


This season's finale could just as easily be called the Redemption Bowl given the number of players for whom the game is a second, third or fifth chance to make good.

Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer was last year dumped by Tampa Bay for not being good enough to get the Bucs to a Super Bowl.

"They said he couldn't get the job done (but) he's here and they're not and that speaks volumes," said Baltimore's standout linebacker Ray Lewis.

Lewis himself was arrested last year in connection with a double murder at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. The charges were later dropped and he went on to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

On the other team there is quarterback Kerry Collins, a recovering alcoholic who had earned such a bad reputation around the NFL that the Giants were the only team to show any interest in him after he was cut by New Orleans.

Collins was outstanding in New York's 41-0 drubbing of Minnesota in the NFC title game, the Giants seventh consecutive victory.

But Collins is more than aware that the Ravens have knocked the opposing starting quarterbacks out of all three their playoff games.

"They don't do anything fancy. They just basically line up and kick peoples' butts," said Collins.

One man who will try to keep that from happening is New York's offensive lineman Glenn Parker, who gets his fifth shot at the big prize after losing four straight Super Bowls with Buffalo in the 1990s.


The Giants are comfortable with their underdog status, having felt underrated all year.

Team owner Wellington Mara said sarcastically that they would "try to become the worst team ever to win the Super Bowl."

"We've been the underdogs all year. We've been the forgotten team," added Strahan.

But Lewis said he would not be underestimating the Giants.

"They're here and they didn't get here by mistake, trust me... it's going to be an all-out grudge match come Sunday," he said.

Lewis is one of many Ravens players who believe they have the NFL's best-ever defense, but Giants Pro Bowl linebacker Jesse Armstead is more interested in jewellery than labels.

"Having that (championship) ring on your hand is better than being known as the best defense," he said.

"You just have to go out there and play the game and hopefully you're the last man standing and then you'll get the recognition that you deserve," he added.