As we learned last week, members of the Ravens’ 2000 championship squad are rooting for the 2012 team, but if the modern-day Ravens could go back in time and play them, the 2000 team is confident it would win.
"If you asked me to pick a team to win, well, of course the 2000 Ravens," guard Mike Flynn told our Ed Lee.
Ray Lewis, the only man still standing from the Super Bowl XXXV team, believes the teams are similar.
"When you think about this team and the 2000 [Super Bowl team], the kinds of things you see is we have a great mix of it all," the linebacker said. "We have youth, we have athleticism, we have wisdom, we have leadership -- we have it at all different levels. That's kind of the thing we had in 2000 that was very, very special."
This current team is special, too, and will be even if they don’t beat the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII.
But would their high-powered offense be able to penetrate the vaunted 2000 defense? Would the 2000 team be able to score enough points to keep pace? Would the world collapse upon itself due to the intensity vortex created when Ray Lewis and Ray Lewis collided at midfield for the pre-game coin toss?
Is this relevant with the Super Bowl just three days away? Heck no. But it’s fun to think about, because despite the similarities Lewis pointed out, these teams couldn’t be more different in terms of style. So who would win? We’ll never know for sure, at least not until time travel is invented. In the meantime, let’s go matchup by matchup and predict which Super squad would have the edge.
2012 PASS OFFENSE VS. 2000 PASS DEFENSE
The Ravens passing attack was inconsistent during the regular season -- often explosive but ineffective at other times -- but Joe Flacco has been excellent in the playoffs. Often connecting with receivers Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones for big scoring plays, Flacco had eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions as the Ravens scored 90 points in their three playoff games. The 2000 secondary boasted a star cover cornerback in Chris McAlister and a Hall of Famer at safety in Rod Woodson, but they were not invincible when it came to stopping the pass. They allowed 187.3 passing yards per game, ranking eighth that season. They did, however, intercept 23 passes and record 35 sacks. The 2012 Ravens would have some success throwing the ball, but I can’t give an edge either way. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
2012 RUSH OFFENSE VS. 2000 RUSH DEFENSE
The Ravens have a Pro Bowl running back in Ray Rice and a Pro Bowl fullback in Vonta Leach, and rookie Bernard Piece has packed a punch off the bench. But this is an easy one. No one ran on the 2000 Ravens. With Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams clogging the middle and a young Ray Lewis tackling everything in sight, that defense allowed a ridiculous 2.68 yards per carry that season. ADVANTAGE: 2000 RAVENS.
2012 PASS DEFENSE VS. 2000 PASS OFFENSE
If the 2000 Ravens team had a weakness, it was a pedestrian passing game. Quarterbacked by Tony Banks and then Trent Dilfer, the Ravens scored just 333 points and once went five weeks without scoring a touchdown. Relying heavily on running back Jamal Lewis, they ranked 22nd in passing offense, averaging 175.9 yards per game. The current squad, which lost top cornerback Lardarius Webb back in Week 6, has allowed high yardage totals to quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but they picked off five passes in three playoff games and are tough to score on. ADVANTAGE: 2012 RAVENS.
2012 RUSH DEFENSE VS. 2000 RUSH OFFENSE
Running back Jamal Lewis, a rookie in 2000, was the engine of that offense, rushing for 1,364 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season. He topped 100 rushing yards in two of the team’s playoff wins, including the 34-7 win over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. His punishing between-the-tackles running style might wear out the current squad, especially with the 37-year-old Ray Lewis patrolling the middle of the defense. The 2012 Ravens finished 20th in run defense, though they have tightened up in that area the past couple months. Jamal Lewis would still get his, though. ADVANTAGE: 2000 RAVENS.
2012 SPECIAL TEAMS VS. 2000 SPECIAL TEAMS
For the most part, these teams were pretty similar on special teams. Matt Stover and Justin Tucker are reliable kickers, and each team had an explosive return specialist (Jermaine Lewis in 2000 and Jacoby Jones in 2012). The 2012 team covered kicks well during the regular season, but they have cracked during these playoffs, which is why I can envision Lewis taking one to the house against them. ADVANTAGE: 2000 RAVENS.
2012 INTANGIBLES VS. 2000 INTANGIBLES
Both teams were special when it comes to overcoming adversity, especially when it revolved around Ray Lewis. In 2000, it was his legal issues in Atlanta. This year, it was his return from a torn triceps and the allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. But this year’s team has overcome a lot more than just that. They endured a slew of injuries. Torrey Smith lost his brother early in the season. They lost four games in the month of December. And they changed offensive coordinators. The fact that they are in New Orleans -- especially via Denver and New England -- is remarkable. ADVANTAGE: 2012 RAVENS.
2012 VS. 2000 SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
As I said earlier, with the contrasting styles of these two teams -- the NFL has changed a lot in the past 12 years -- this would be a fascinating game to reenact, if such a thing were possible. Alas, it’s not, but here is how I think it would play out. Joe Flacco and the 2012 Ravens would be able to move the ball through the air on the 2000 team, but they would have trouble getting in the end zone. The 2000 team would run the ball and avoid back-breaking turnovers, but they would only score 10 points. The difference would be a big kickoff return for a touchdown by Jermaine Lewis, giving the 2000 team a 17-16 victory.