Ravens Star in Their Own Biopic

Street Talk Ravens Star in Their Own Biopic

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This Friday, "J.Edgar", the biopic concerning late Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover will be released nationwide.

But the Ravens beat that premiere with a biopic of their own last Sunday night, which was also released to a nationwide audience on NBC, when they stunned the Steelers on a last second touchdown, 23-20.

You might be able to call this biopic "T. Dilfer" or "P. Johnson" because the script that played out on Sunday night looked oh-so-familiar to a Sunday afternoon in 2000.

It was Sunday, November 12, 2000, to be exact, when the Ravens became the first team to beat the Tennessee Titans at their new stadium in Nashville, 24-23.

Let’s roll-call the cast, shall we?

The 2000 Ravens were played by the 2011 Ravens, a team with high expectations, whose Super Bowl hopes were threatened by an underperforming offense.

The 2000 Titans (the Ravens’ opponents on 11-12-00) were played by the 2011 Steelers, the tough, hard-hitting divisional opponent that is nearly invincible on their home field.

Trent Dilfer was played by Joe Flacco, the quarterback with mediocre statistics who is much-maligned in the local media, and among the Baltimore fans.  In fact, Dilfer’s passer rating for 2000 was 76.6; Flacco’s currently stands at 76.9.

Steve McNair was played by Ben Roethlisberger, the hard-nosed, highly-touted quarterback who stands tall in the pocket and is strong enough to shake off potential sackers to make plays downfield.

Jevon Kearse was played by James Harrison, the sacking nightmare of a defender who constantly interrupted the Ravens’ backfield, and finished the game with three sacks.

Patrick Johnson was played by Torrey Smith, the speedy young wide receiver with a case of the "dropsies" and self-doubt, who tasted sweet redemption by hauling in the winning touchdown.

Even the fans and the weather were similar.  The Tennessee fans were loud and rowdy in 2000; the Steelers’ fans followed suit almost exactly 11 years to the day.

And the weather?  In the Ravens’ win in Nashville, the game time temperature was 46 degrees with a wind of four miles per hour.  In the Ravens’ 2011 shocker in Pittsburgh, the game time temperature was 50 degrees with a wind of two miles per hour.

Eerie, eh?

The scene leading up to the Ravens’ 2000 win in Nashville should sound familiar.  The Ravens, picked to reach the playoffs for the first time during the preseason by many prognosticators, were seeing their season derailed by a pitiable offense.  After starting the season by winning three of four games, the Ravens’ offense devolved into what then-owner Art Modell described as the "Dust Bowl" – no touchdowns in five consecutive games.

The gallows humor abounded.  "Quoth the Raven – Neverscore" was a popular one-liner on the e-mail circuit. 

Head Coach Brian Billick benched starting quarterback Tony Banks during Game 4 of the Dust Bowl, a 14-6 loss to the Titans, in which Banks threw three interceptions. 

Enter Trent Dilfer, a first-round (sixth pick overall) 1994 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who envisioned Dilfer leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl one day, perhaps in their own stadium.  After Dilfer posted one Pro Bowl season and five poor seasons, Tampa Bay quit on their one-time Golden Boy, and Dilfer landed in Baltimore.  Dilfer was the Jon Kitna of his era, not to be entrusted with running an NFL offense.

When he replaced Banks, Dilfer seemed to prove his skeptics to be correct, by throwing an interception and "rolling up" a puny 58 yards passing on 13 pass attempts.

Dilfer presided over Game 5 of the Dust Bowl, a 9-6 loss to the Steelers in Baltimore, by throwing another interception and posting just 152 passing yards on 25 attempts.  The loss dropped the Ravens’ record to 5-4, and as any call-in show host or caller would repeatedly tell you, the playoffs were out of reach primarily because the Ravens lacked a quality, "elite" quarterback to lead them.

The Dust Bowl ended the following week in Cincinnati as the Ravens won 27-7, but that win was generally disregarded due to the lack of serious competition presented by the Bungles.

So, the Ravens entered Nashville with a 6-4 record, and serious doubts about beating a quality team for the rest of 2000.  The Titans, on the other hand, were enjoying their status as Sports Illustrated cover boys that week, with the headline "Remember the Titans".

All that happened in Nashville on that raw November Sunday was what happened in Pittsburgh last Sunday night: an improbable Ravens’ victory, won on a late fourth-quarter drive by the maligned quarterback. 

The talk about Flacco, and his shocking "rise to the occasion" was strikingly similar that regarding Dilfer.  Dilfer not only had to redeem his career, and his slow start to his 2000 season, he also had to redeem himself for throwing an interception returned 87 yards for a  go-ahead touchdown by Titans’ defensive back Perry Phenix – on the drive immediately preceding the Ravens’ winning touchdown drive. 

Is there a better example of picking oneself up after adversity?

Dilfer’s winning touchdown pass in Nashville was a three-yarder to Johnson, who in his third year had still not conquered his habit of dropping passes and making critical mistakes, thus nullifying his blazing speed.  Those problems have besieged talented rookie Smith, a Ralph Friedgen product from the University of Maryland, who dropped a sure touchdown pass earlier in the winning drive.  Hopefully, Smith will eviscerate all self-doubts and become more sure-handed after his heroics in Iron City.

Even the post-game interviews for these two games were similar.  In 2000, Ravens’ tight end Shannon Sharpe yelled "Trent Dilfer for President!" into the camera; in 2011, it was Ravens’ linebacker Terrell Suggs asking the NBC audience "What are they gonna say about him (Flacco) now?!?"

One difference – Flacco laughed off the adversity and support, while Dilfer openly wept from the relief of redemption. 

Perhaps tears will flow down Joe Cool’s cheeks if the Ravens follow the rest of the 2000 script.


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Steve Hamrick

About Steve Hamrick

Steve Hamrick is a Baltimore native and original 1996 Personal Seat License holder.  He is also an attorney and the founding member of The Hamrick Law Firm.  But please don't hold that against him.  More from Steve Hamrick


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