TAMPA, Fla. -- You saw it. The Giants gave in. Early. Long before the gamewas over. Long before it was even decided.
They knew they weren't going to win. They knew the other team was tougher.
They knew the Ravens were just too rough, too brutal, too good.
Everyone knows now.
When you win the Super Bowl, you get more than a trophy and braggingrights. You get a place in football history. The Ravens' place is clear aftera 34-7 defeat of the Giants that was about as subtle as a knockout punch tothe jaw last night at Raymond James Stadium:
Their defense is among the best ever, and the entire team is among the mostphysical and punishing ever to suit up in the National Football League. Rightup there with the Steelers of the '70s, the Bears of the '80s and any otherteam that won the old-fashioned way, by hitting the hardest.
By substituting intimidation and domination for fast feet and cleverschemes. By pounding and pounding on opponents until their will was crushed.
The Ravens did just that to the Giants last night, just as they did to theRaiders in the American Football Conference championship game two weeks agoand the Titans and Broncos before that. Cumulative final score from theRavens' four playoff games: 95-23.
Any questions? Not one. Twenty years from now, when historians are asked torecall the team that brought pro foot- ball supremacy back to Baltimore after30 years, they will say, "Now that was one rough bunch."
A team that talked big and played even bigger. A team that had enough heartto survive a three-game losing streak, enough teamwork to stay togetherdespite going five games without a touchdown, enough defense to overcome apotentially dangerous lack of offense.
If Vince Lombardi's Packers are remembered as a power sweep and BillWalsh's 49ers are remembered as a Montana-to-Rice touchdown pass, these Ravenswill be remembered as a linebacker's driving tackle, a defensive end'sthunderous sack, another guy on the other team paying a steep price for daringto carry the ball.
"I sit on the sidelines and watch that defense, and I say, `Man I'm justglad I don't have to play those guys,' " Ravens offensive tackle JonathanOgden said last night.
Some call it boring, one-dimensional, ugly -- in four playoff games, theRavens converted just 15 of their 60 third-down chances.
"If I were a fan, I might rather watch the [offensive-minded] Rams,"quarterback Trent Dilfer said.
Don't call them boring
But know this: Anyone who calls them boring didn't line up on the otherside of the ball. Didn't experience the sore bones and broken spirits theRavens give out as parting gifts.
"This team just hits you, keeps coming at you and never lets up," Ravenscoach Brian Billick said.
The Giants never had a chance last night. The 41 points they scored on theVikings in the National Football Conference championship game were asworthless as the silver confetti that rained on the field after the final gunlast night. They scored their only points on a kickoff return.
They did the right thing, mind you, eschewing the running game, floodingthe field with receivers and daring the Ravens secondary to make plays. That'sthe only way to take on the Ravens defense, which simply can't be run on.
But it didn't matter that the Giants had the right idea. It was still thewrong idea. The Ravens' defense was just too good.
Had the game gone on another four quarters, the Giants' offense still mightnot have scored, and quarterback Kerry Collins might have requiredhospitalization. To say he took a beating is an understatement.
Giants took a beating
Actually, all of the Giants took a beating. That's what the Ravens do. Theymake you pay a physical, deflating price.
Catch a pass and get hit harder than you did the week before. Run up themiddle and end up with a headache. Get nowhere when you're used to gettingsomewhere.
So then, in the end, when the score was still just 10-0 last night, you sawfrom the Giants what you saw from the Broncos in the third quarter, the Titansin the fourth quarter and the Raiders in the second half:
The realization that their best just wasn't good enough, that their heartjust wasn't big enough, that they were behind and incapable of driving downthe field and scoring on the Ravens' defense, so, well, this thing couldn'tget over soon enough.
Greatest game ever
The stories coming out of it are plentiful and emotional and local lore inthe making. The redemption of Dilfer, who made enough big plays to win a SuperBowl. The triumph of Art Modell, who moved a beloved team and had to withstandmore heat than the Ravens defense ever applied to get to the promised landlast night. The unwavering fierceness of Ray Lewis, the best player in theNFL.
Just getting to the Super Bowl represented a giddy emotional payback forBaltimore's fans, who endured so much. Getting to the Super Bowl and blowingaway a team from New York brought the concept to a full realization. There waspayback value for fans of all generations. Payback for Joe Namath's cockyguarantee in Super Bowl III. Payback for Jeffrey Maier's 15 minutes of fame inthe baseball playoffs five years ago. Payback for Mike Mussina's defection tothe Yankees.
Enjoy every minute, Baltimore, because your cup is as full as it can everbe. Forget the Colts' overtime win in 1958. This is now Baltimore's "GreatestGame Ever Played." Doubt it? Come on. After enduring the frustration of 30years without a title and the humility of 12 years without a team, beating NewYork's finest by 27 points in the Super Bowl is, quite simply, a local sportsmoment without compare.
The best of the best. Brought to you by the toughest of the tough.