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Published: Monday, 1/15/2001

Analysis: Ravens, Giants win with super defense

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Paul Tagliabue, the NFL commissioner, is halfway home.

How awkward would it have been presenting the Super Bowl trophy to renegade owner Al Davis of Oakland, who for years has been sticking it to the league with franchise shifts and lawsuits?

Considering Davis's most recent suit accuses Tagliabue and others of deceptively setting up an executive compensation fund of about $100 million for top league officials, the commish would rather have given up his clothing allowance than present that trophy to Davis.

He might have to hand it to Art Modell, though, after Modell's Baltimore Ravens advanced with a 16-3 win over Oakland in yesterday's AFC championship game.

Modell isn't Davis, by any means, but he did create a public-relations nightmare for the NFL when he abandoned Cleveland, in the process forcing Tagliabue's hand in regards to expansion.

Of course, the commissioner might not have to worry about Modell, either.

Unless yesterday's offensive explosion by the New York Giants was an aberration - and, true, they weren't facing the Ravens' defense - Tagliabue might end up handing the trophy to another of the game's grand old men, Giants owner Wellington Mara.

New York stunned Minnesota 41-0 in the NFC championship game, and, as the old saying goes, it wasn't as close as the final score might indicate.

The Giants dismantled one of the NFL's top offenses, and, on the flip side, looked as if they, and not the Vikings, should have been considered a much-feared scoring machine.

Two men associated with the Giants may have guaranteed themselves new jobs next season.

Offensive coordinator Sean Payton, mentioned as a candidate for head coaching vacancies with the Browns, Jets and the future Houston franchise, surely saw his stock soar with an aggressive, vertical-offense game plan.

Meanwhile, the groundskeeper at Giants Stadium didn't exactly sell himself with a field that was freshly-painted muck except for patches where new sod had been laid.

The Vikings, an indoor team built around speed, were concerned that a bad field would affect their footing. It didn't matter, considering the Vikings were on their heels all afternoon.

New York scored on its opening drive, then recovered a Minnesota fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

By calling for a swing pass to fullback Greg Comella on the first play, Payton sent the message that the Giants weren't going to settle for field goals and allow the Viking defense any kind of moral victories.

The Minnesota defenders were clueless thereafter, which is assuming the Vikings weren't equally clueless before then.

Now, two recycled quarterbacks are headed for the Super Bowl.

With the exception of one explosion - a 96-yard pass play, the longest in NFL postseason history - Baltimore's Trent Dilfer was little more than workmanlike, which is enough considering his team's strength is on defense. Now, he gets the dream assignment of returning to Tampa, where he was a Bucs castoff, for the Super Bowl.

New York's Kerry Collins was far better than workmanlike. While Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper completed one more passes to the Giants (three interceptions) than he did to Randy Moss, Collins was busy setting records with a 28-of-39, 381-yard performance that produced five touchdowns.

“All week, everybody was talking about our defense against their offense,” Collins said. “But we talked all week about how our offense could go deep against their defense.”

They'll have two weeks to talk about the Super Bowl and it's unlikely Collins or anyone else will expect to startle the Baltimore defense.

Oakland's Rich Gannon, who played as long as he could after suffering a collarbone injury, can tell Collins that the Ravens allow opposing quarterbacks very little motion in or out of the pocket and permit no extra time for receivers to break loose from the secondary.

With or without a healthy Gannon, it was obvious from the start that Oakland would be unable to drive the long field against Baltimore. There is the temptation to suggest New York, regardless of how good it looked yesterday, will stand no better of a chance.

But that would be overlooking what the Giants defense accomplished, holding the vaunted Viking offense to 114 total yards and nine first downs.

Has any Super Bowl gone into overtime tied 0-0?



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