TAMPA, Fla. -- You saw it. The Giants gave in. Early. Long before the game was 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 bragging rights. You get a place in football history. The Ravens' place is clear after a 34-7 defeat of the Giants that was about as subtle as a knockout punch to the jaw last night at Raymond James Stadium:

Their defense is among the best ever, and the entire team is among the most physical and punishing ever to suit up in the National Football League. Right up there with the Steelers of the '70s, the Bears of the '80s and any other team that won the old-fashioned way, by hitting the hardest.

By substituting intimidation and domination for fast feet and clever schemes. 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 the Raiders in the American Football Conference championship game two weeks ago and the Titans and Broncos before that. Cumulative final score from the Ravens' four playoff games: 95-23.

Any questions? Not one. Twenty years from now, when historians are asked to recall the team that brought pro foot- ball supremacy back to Baltimore after 30 years, they will say, "Now that was one rough bunch."

A team that talked big and played even bigger. A team that had enough heart to survive a three-game losing streak, enough teamwork to stay together despite going five games without a touchdown, enough defense to overcome a potentially dangerous lack of offense.

If Vince Lombardi's Packers are remembered as a power sweep and Bill Walsh's 49ers are remembered as a Montana-to-Rice touchdown pass, these Ravens will be remembered as a linebacker's driving tackle, a defensive end's thunderous sack, another guy on the other team paying a steep price for daring to carry the ball.

"I sit on the sidelines and watch that defense, and I say, `Man I'm just glad I don't have to play those guys,' " Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said last night.

Some call it boring, one-dimensional, ugly -- in four playoff games, the Ravens 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 other side of the ball. Didn't experience the sore bones and broken spirits the Ravens give out as parting gifts.

"This team just hits you, keeps coming at you and never lets up," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The Giants never had a chance last night. The 41 points they scored on the Vikings in the National Football Conference championship game were as worthless as the silver confetti that rained on the field after the final gun last night. They scored their only points on a kickoff return.

They did the right thing, mind you, eschewing the running game, flooding the field with receivers and daring the Ravens secondary to make plays. That's the 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 the wrong idea. The Ravens' defense was just too good.

Had the game gone on another four quarters, the Giants' offense still might not have scored, and quarterback Kerry Collins might have required hospitalization. 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. They make you pay a physical, deflating price.

Catch a pass and get hit harder than you did the week before. Run up the middle and end up with a headache. Get nowhere when you're used to getting somewhere.

So then, in the end, when the score was still just 10-0 last night, you saw from the Giants what you saw from the Broncos in the third quarter, the Titans in the fourth quarter and the Raiders in the second half:


The realization that their best just wasn't good enough, that their heart just wasn't big enough, that they were behind and incapable of driving down the field and scoring on the Ravens' defense, so, well, this thing couldn't get over soon enough.

Greatest game ever

The stories coming out of it are plentiful and emotional and local lore in the making. The redemption of Dilfer, who made enough big plays to win a Super Bowl. The triumph of Art Modell, who moved a beloved team and had to withstand more heat than the Ravens defense ever applied to get to the promised land last night. The unwavering fierceness of Ray Lewis, the best player in the NFL.

Just getting to the Super Bowl represented a giddy emotional payback for Baltimore's fans, who endured so much. Getting to the Super Bowl and blowing away a team from New York brought the concept to a full realization. There was payback value for fans of all generations. Payback for Joe Namath's cocky guarantee in Super Bowl III. Payback for Jeffrey Maier's 15 minutes of fame in the baseball playoffs five years ago. Payback for Mike Mussina's defection to the Yankees.

Enjoy every minute, Baltimore, because your cup is as full as it can ever be. Forget the Colts' overtime win in 1958. This is now Baltimore's "Greatest Game Ever Played." Doubt it? Come on. After enduring the frustration of 30 years without a title and the humility of 12 years without a team, beating New York's finest by 27 points in the Super Bowl is, quite simply, a local sports moment without compare.

The best of the best. Brought to you by the toughest of the tough.