History tells us the 2000 Ravens throttled teams every week with their unique brand of defensive mayhem en route to the NFL’s 16-game record for fewest points allowed (165). That defense may well have been the best in NFL history.
It follows the theory of diminishing returns. First the Ravens stone the opponent’s run game. Then they harass and sack the quarterback. Then they collect the spoils, which usually translate to turnovers and touchdowns. Along the way, the Ravens drained the opponent’s will.
Four return touchdowns in four games is phenomenal. Three off fumbles is frightening (ask quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez).
The 2000 Ravens had three return touchdowns in the regular season and four in the postseason. The total of seven is a figure that might be matched or exceeded by this year’s team.
Another common denominator: this defense is hungry, just like Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Peter Boulware, Rob Burnett and Tony Siragusa were in 2000.
Ed Reed has been a Pro Bowl safety here for 10 years, but he hasn’t gotten to the Super Bowl in what will be a Hall of Fame career. Neither has Terrell Suggs or Jarret Johnson in their nine seasons. Those guys know time is running out. They know this is probably the best chance they’ll get. They know the Ravens are that good this year.
And they know their history.
“When we talk about the Ravens defense and the history we have,” Johnson said on Monday, “it all started with those guys. They set the bar, and they set it as high as you can set it. We’re trying to match that … we’re trying to beat that. It’s tough to do. They had a lot of really good veteran players. They had some extremely physical guys and they had a great scheme to go along with it. You know, you never set out to match anybody. You want to be your own self, but you know, if we play anywhere near those guys, we’re going to be a good defense.”