As if the on-the-field offensive struggles weren't enough, star linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with first degree murder after a double stabbing in Atlanta and return specialist Jermaine Lewis lost his son, Geronimo, Dec. 12.
Second-year head coach Brian Billick wouldn't allow the team to even say the word "playoffs," much less discuss them, forcing Edwin Mulitalo to make up the name "Festivus" as a synonym for a postseason berth.
The Ravens began the season by shutting out Pittsburgh 16-0, and the next week earned a thrilling 39-36 victory over Jacksonville, a game in which quarterback Tony Banks threw five touchdown passes. Despite the breakout performance, Banks was benched after the first half of the season.
Beginning with a 12-0 road victory over Cleveland, the Ravens went five straight games without reaching the end zone, yet found a way to win two of those games. After a 14-6 loss at home to Tennessee, coach Brian Billick had seen enough, and Tampa Bay castoff Trent Dilfer replaced Banks as the starting quarterback.
Dilfer struggled in his first game as a starter, as two long Matt Stover field goals were all the offense could muster in a 9-6 loss to the Steelers at home.
Dilfer and the Ravens made quick work of their touchdown-less streak with a 27-7 victory in Cincinnati, and the offensive woes were soon forgotten. The victory over the Bengals would be the start of a seven-game winning streak that would propel the Ravens into the playoffs with a 12-4 record and a home wild-card game against the Denver Broncos.
The Ravens flexed their offensive and defensive muscle in the postseason. They used a pounding running game featuring rookie running back Jamal Lewis and an unyielding defense to rout Denver 21-3, win for the second time in Tennessee, 24-10, and cruise past the Raiders in Oakland, 16-3, to claim the AFC Championship.
Throughout the season, the Ravens showed a knack for making big plays at crucial moments.
Against the Broncos, Sharpe caught a deflected pass that should have been intercepted and raced 58 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
Against the Titans, with the score knotted at 10 in the fourth quarter, Anthony Mitchell returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown and Ray Lewis ran back an interception 50 yards into the end zone to punch a ticket to Oakland.
In Oakland, with their backs pushed against their own goal line, Dilfer hit Sharpe on a quick slant route over the middle for a NFL postseason record 96-yard touchdown pass to put the Ravens up 7-0. The Raiders would get no closer.
The Ravens would string together an 11-game win streak, steamrolling through the playoffs en route to a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Cornerback Duane Starks intercepted a pass from Giants quarterback Kerry Collins for a touchdown and Jermaine Lewis answered a Ron Dixon kickoff return for a touchdown with one of his own, giving the Ravens a 27-7 lead and sealing their victory. Lewis dedicated the touchdown to his recently deceased son, raising his index finger to the sky as he raced into the end zone. The play set a Super Bowl record as the first time back-to-back kickoff returns resulted in touchdowns.
Ray Lewis was vindicated after a tumultuous offseason, winning MVP of the Super Bowl and Defensive Player of the Year and was cleared of all murder charges. Trent Dilfer exorcised demons and won the Super Bowl in, of all places, Tampa Bay. And then there was the much maligned owner Art Modell, who was heavily-criticized by the national media for moving the historic Cleveland Browns franchise to Baltimore, winning a Super Bowl for the first time.
Ever grateful, the owner savored the championship not only for himself and the team, but the people who made the relocation possible.
"To the people in Baltimore city, to the people in Baltimore County, and to the state of Maryland, this is for you," Modell said, raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The defense showed why it became arguably the greatest of all-time, allowing just 23 points through all four playoff games and breaking or tying a number of Super Bowl records, including equalling the mark of four interceptions in a game.
Five years after leaving Cleveland to give Baltimore its first NFL franchise since the Colts left for Indianapolis in 1984, the Ravens united a city with its first Super Bowl victory since 1970.
The Ravens were World Champions.
- RS Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for touchdowns in a 34-20 victory over the New York Jets.
- LB Ray Lewis was named Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP.
- The Ravens defeated the New York Giants, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV to become World Champions.
- The Ravens went five games (21 quarters) without scoring a touchdown.
- K Matt Stover kicked 9 field goals in back to back wins over Cleveland and Jacksonville.
- The Ravens set NFL records by giving up 165 points during a 16 game schedule and allowing only 970 yards rushing.
- The Ravens clinched their first playoff berth with a 24-3 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
- Rookie RB Jamal Lewis rushed for a team-record 1,364 yards.
- Baltimore hosted its first playoff home game since 1977 and defeated the Denver Broncos 21-3.
- The Ravens had an NFL-high 49 takeaways and 26 fumble recoveries.
- All six divisions featured new champions, only the third time since 1970 that this occurred.
- Twelve teams finished with 10 or more wins.
- New York Jets QB Vinny Testaverde became the third player in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes in a fourth quarter.
- The Jets came back from 23 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat the Miami Dolphins in overtime, 40-37.
- There were 11 200-yard rushing games.
- There were 23 1,000-yard rushers.
- St. Louis RB Marshall Faulk set the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season (26).
- Cincinnati Bengals RB Corey Dillon broke Walter Payton's single game rushing record with 278 yards against the Denver Broncos.
- President George W. Bush defeats Al Gore in a controversial presidential election that will forever be remembered for the "dimpled chads" controversy in Florida.
- First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton enters her name into the New York Senate race.
- A six-year-old boy shoots Kayla Rolland, 6, at an elementary school in Mount Morris Township, Mich.
- Michael J. Fox announces he's leaving Spin City at the end of the 19992000 television season to lobby on behalf of Parkinson's disease, which he was diagnosed with in 1991.
- NBC renewed Law & Order through the 2005 season, making it the show's 15th year. The extension makes Law & Order television's longest-running police drama.
- The Matrix dominates the MTV Movie Awards, winning Best Movie, Male Performance (Keanu Reeves), and Fight Sequence.
- Comedian Dennis Miller is chosen to host ABC Monday Night Football and team with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts in the booth.
- Richard Hatch, the overweight "Island Machiavelli," outwits and outlasts the other Survivor cast members and wins the $1 million prize in the hit reality TV show.