When the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI to end the 2011 season, it capped their second world championship in five years, and their fifth postseason trip in a seven-year span.
A year later, the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII, highlighting a stretch where the franchise won at least one playoff game in five consecutive years under John Harbaugh.
The seasons that have followed for both teams are a referendum on how difficult it is to win consistently in the NFL. The Giants haven't been to the playoffs since their last Super Bowl victory, and they haven't finished with a winning record since 2012. The Ravens have one playoff appearance in three seasons since claiming their second world championship.
When the two teams meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium, both will be trying to end losing streaks that are threatening to derail another season. The Giants have lost three straight games to fall into last place in the NFC East. The Ravens have lost two in a row, prompting Harbaugh to fire offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and replace him with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg.
"There's a big urgency. When you see somebody go, you see somebody essentially get fired, it lights a fire under everybody," Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta said. "You understand that nobody's job is safe, from the head coach down to the long snapper. Marty steps up and is in this position, and we all want to play well for him. We all want to go out there and be explosive offensively and do really good things for him. Certainly a sense of urgency is in the building."
Both teams disputed the notion that this is a must-win game, although wide receiver Mike Wallace summed up the prevailing attitude in the Ravens' locker room when he said, "At the same time, we need to win."
That's something neither the Ravens nor the Giants have done consistently enough since getting to the NFL mountaintop.
After hiring Ben McAdoo to replace long-time head coach Tom Coughlin and an offseason spending spree to fix their beleaguered defense, the Giants started this season 2-0. However, they lost at home to the Washington Redskins and then were overmatched in dropping back-to-back road games to the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
Star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s behavior has been a weekly topic of conversation and struggling left tackle Ereck Flowers added to the perception that the Giants are a frustrated team by pushing an ESPN reporter after the Packers' loss. On the field, the offense has played so poorly in recent weeks that some in New York are wondering how much good football quarterback Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, has left at the age of 35.
"I think when things go wrong everyone needs something to point at," said Beckham, who has had a relatively quiet start in terms of on-field production. "It's easy to point the finger here and there. Internally between all of us, we have to play better. We all need to do things to make it easier on him and on ourselves. Everyone needs to step it up."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a Super Bowl MVP award of his own, can certainly relate to Manning's struggles. In three of the Ravens' five games, an offense that was billed as one of the most talented the team has ever had has managed only one offensive touchdown.
The anemic offense cost the Ravens (3-2) in back-to-back losses and led to Trestman's dismissal after 21 games as the team's offensive coordinator. Mornhinweg's debut as the Ravens' play caller will come at a time where the Ravens top receiver, Steve Smith Sr., is dealing with an ankle injury, and the team could be without at least two starting offensive linemen, including Marshal Yanda, arguably the best guard in football.
"We just have to do what we are doing better," Flacco said. "Find a better rhythm, take advantage of some more opportunities. Yes, I think we can expect to go out there and play well and have success."
Manning and Flacco have gotten used to carrying their team's fortunes in recent seasons. For all of Manning's late-game heroics, it was the Giants' defense that shut down Tom Brady and the vaunted Patriots' offense in two different Super Bowls.
But as defensive stars like Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have moved on, the team's defense hasn't remained playoff-caliber. In three of the past four seasons, New York has ranked 29th or worse in yards allowed per game.
Manning has had his moments, but he's been unable to lift a perennially injury-marred supporting cast back to the postseason. Since winning the Super Bowl, the Giants are 30-39, and they've finished in third place in their division in three consecutive years. They currently sit in last place in the surprisingly strong-starting NFC East.
"It's tough," Manning said in a conference call with Baltimore-area reporters this past week. "You have to play good football week-in and week-out and be consistent. Each game is a great test each week. You have to bring your best football each and every week. [It is about] just trying to figure out how to do that and get the guys to believe that we have the talent and the potential to make this season special."
Asked about the importance of Sunday's game, Manning said, "We know we have to get going. Guys are committed to doing whatever it takes to change things and get back to winning again."
The Ravens' struggles since winning the Super Bowl behind Flacco's magical run have been less jarring. They are 26-27 heading into Sunday's game, and they made one return trip to the playoffs in 2014.
However, last season's injury-plagued 5-11 season , the franchise's worst since 2007, upped the ante this season.
Things started well as the Ravens reeled off close victories over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars to get off to a 3-0 start. But the past two losses have brought a "here we go again" feel. The Ravens haven't made the plays in the fourth quarter to win. And now, the injuries are starting to mount.
"We are itching for a 'W,'" said Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. "When you lose, everything is bad. You can fill in the blanks. The food is bad; everything is bad. We need to get a 'W,' and we need one now. They are coming off [three] losses, too. There is only going to be one winner come Sunday, and we want it to be us."
Changes of fortune
After winning back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the New York Giants and Ravens have found out how hard it is to stay on top in the NFL.
Giants (since 2011); Ravens (2012)
Overall record; 30-39; 26-27;
Winning seasons; 1; 1;
Playoff berths; 0; 1;
Playoff victories; 0; 1;
Division titles; 0; 0;
Head-coaching changes; 1; 0;
Offensive coordinator changes; 3; 3;
Def. coordinator changes; 2; 0;