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Collins recalls Ravens vividly

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens fans heaped praise and adoration on Ray Lewis, Brian Billick and Art Modell for bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore to cap a successful 2000 season.

The next person on that list might have been Kerry Collins.

It was Collins, as the quarterback for the New York Giants, who contributed to the Ravens' 34-7 win in the January 2001 Super Bowl by throwing four interceptions and getting pulverized by the Lewis-led defense.

"I still obviously have vivid memories of the game - most of which were not so good," Collins said yesterday during a conference call with the Baltimore media. "But hats off to them. They were a good team and a great defense. It was a good job on their part."

Collins will get an opportunity to make new memories as he and the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans visit M&T; Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The stakes will be different - a championship isn't on the line - but Sunday's game is important in terms of gaining an edge in the AFC.

It might be just as important for Collins' psyche. In 2000, Collins was a 28-year-old who had been selected in the first round (fifth overall in 1995) and whose 6-foot-5 frame and powerful right arm drew as much attention as his predilection for alcohol and his broken childhood.

Collins paced the Giants to a 12-4 regular-season record, and after outscoring the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings by a combined 61-10, New York was poised to capture its third Super Bowl title.

But the Ravens' defense battered Collins, forcing him to complete just 38.5 percent (15 of 39) of his passes for 112 yards, returning one of the four interceptions for a touchdown (by cornerback Duane Starks) and sacking the quarterback four times.

Collins' passer rating of 7.1 is the second lowest in Super Bowl history, edging only the 0.0 rating posted by the Denver Broncos' Craig Morton against the Dallas Cowboys in January 1978.

"Their team speed was just tremendous," Collins, now 35, recalled of a Ravens defense that included Lewis, defensive tackle Sam Adams and safety Rod Woodson and was built by defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. "They were all over the field. Obviously, a well-coached bunch. Smart players. Very sound in what they did and obviously very talented. That was by far the best defense I ever played against."

That unit set an NFL record for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game regular season, but Ray Lewis wasn't in the mood to reminisce yesterday or comment on the differences between the Collins of then and the Collins of now.

"I couldn't tell you. I haven't watched him like that," Lewis said. "[Today] will probably be the first day [of practice] before I [watch] Kerry Collins [on film]. I just think they're playing [well] overall as a team, and I think him, being a veteran in this game, he's managing the game pretty well, playing to their defense. And I think that's why they're 4-0."

Cornerback Chris McAlister, the only other current Raven to play in the 2001 Super Bowl on defense, said on his radio show: "You don't wish a guy any flashbacks, but I hope he does [have them]. I think we had about four interceptions in that game. So welcome back, Kerry."

Collins, who became the Titans' starter after Vince Young sprained his left knee in the season opener, ranks in the lower third of the NFL in several statistical categories, such as passing yards (24th), completion percentage (25th) and touchdown passes (tied for 22nd). But his primary tasks are to use the pass to set up the NFL's eighth-most prolific running attack and avoid mistakes (only one interception).

"He challenges the defense when he's working against the defense and had a good offseason," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "Got in great shape and things kind of happened the way they did. We turned it over to him, and he's been very efficient."

That efficiency will be tested against a Ravens defense that ranks first in the NFL in total yards and against the pass and second against the run.

Collins said he sees some similarities between the current defense and the unit in 2000. But he chuckled when asked about watching 6-4, 345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata dropping into pass coverage and making an interception as he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger on Monday night.

"They'll act like they're rushing and drop out, and it seems like they do that with a lot of guys," Collins said. "That's one thing you've got to be ready for. That's the challenge of this defense. They give you a lot of looks. They give you some different things that you don't see each week. So you've got to be able to see everything and try to figure out where everyone's at."


Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Titans by 3

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