Tomorrow marks the 16th anniversary of the Ravens’ first playoff game.
After everything that happened with the Colts, and a 24-39-1 record in the franchise’s first four seasons, the 2000 Ravens returned playoff football to Baltimore fans for the first time since 1977.
It took 16 years from when the Colts left for Indianapolis to witness a winning football team again. And now, 16 years later, we look back at the first playoff game in franchise history.
The 2000 Ravens personified toughness. Not only were they led by their legendary defense, but they endured more than a few challenges and criticisms along the way. Moreover, their 12 regular season wins weren’t even good enough to win the division. The Tennessee Titans took the AFC Central crown with a 13-3 record.
After allowing a minuscule 10.3 points per game, the Ravens were rewarded with a wildcard home game against a Denver team that was just two years removed from winning its second consecutive Super Bowl. Baltimore entered that game on a 7-game winning streak, during which its offense scored at least 24 points in all but one game, and its defense allowed a total of 67 points.
The 2000 Ravens offense had key veterans like Jonathan Ogden, Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer, and Qadry Ismail leading the way. But it was rookie running back Jamal Lewis who made the biggest impact.
The 5th overall pick that year racked up 1,660 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns during the regular season, despite splitting time with Priest Holmes. That afternoon, he would be as valuable as ever.
In 5-degree wind chill, both passing games struggled. Two Denver quarterbacks (Gus Frerotte and Jarious Jackson) and Trent Dilfer combined to throw for 308 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Lewis picked up the slack in a big way, toting the rock 30 times for 110 yards and two scores. Ogden was key to Baltimore’s rushing attack, as Lewis’ 14 runs to his side resulted in 75 yards and a score.
Denver didn’t put up much resistance. The Broncos did manage a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter after a 12-play, 68-yard drive. However, none of their 13 other offensive drives gained more than 27 yards.
And to make matters worse, Denver nearly had a pick-six on its first defensive play following the field goal.
Instead, after Lewis bobbled Dilfer’s pass in the right flat, Sharpe seemingly came out of nowhere to snag the ball out of the air, and take it 58 yards to the house. On his way, he ran right along the sideline occupied by his former teammates.
That was the play of the game. It was the proverbial dagger. Denver was down by two scores before halftime, and had just surrendered a fluke touchdown to a man who had been a 4-time All-Pro and helped win two Super Bowls for them.
Physically and emotionally, the Ravens thoroughly beat the Broncos. In their first ever playoff game, the Ravens were victorious, 21-3. That win set the tone for a truly historic playoff run.
The 2000 Ravens didn’t just win the Super Bowl, they dismantled every opponent they faced along the way. In four games that postseason, Baltimore trailed for a total of 25:24–an average of 6:21 per game. Furthermore, the Ravens won the all-important turnover battle, 12-2.
For an offense that “wasn’t very good,” only committing two turnovers in four playoff games took some serious talent. In fact, the four defenses the Ravens faced forced a total of 16 turnovers in the games before they faced Baltimore.
It took five years for the ban of the “p-word” to be lifted. But once it was, the Ravens didn’t look back.