January 7, 2001.
The Ravens travel to Adelphi Coliseum in Nashville to take on the Titans. Despite being the only team to have beaten Steve McNair & Co. in Tennessee at Adelphi, the Ravens are 6-point underdogs. And if Baltimore’s offense was any indication that day, the point spread should have been bigger.
The Ravens managed just 134 net yards of offense to the Titans 317; 6 first downs to Tennessee’s 23. The Titans controlled the ball for 40:29 to the Ravens 19:31. And Trent Dilfer was just 5 of 16 on the day for 117 yards, 56 coming on one pass to Shannon Sharpe. So, the other 18 drop backs, which included 3 Titans sacks, produced just 29 net yards. To say it was an anemic effort is an insult to anemic efforts.
Recently during the Ravens Super Bowl 35 Championship Celebration, Dilfer admitted that he wasn’t his best physically and he could no longer do the things that he did earlier in his career.
The 1994 6th overall pick in the NFL Draft was humble on this special night but he wasn’t going to take the blame for the team’s horrific offensive output during that January 2001 Sunday afternoon. Dilfer made it clear that something sinister was at work.
Perhaps you recall that during the presentation of NFL Network’s, America’s Game featuring the 2000 Ravens, Dilfer let it be known that his playbook went missing prior to that Divisional showdown along the banks of the Cumberland River. The Santa Cruz, CA native for years has maintained that the Ravens offensive efforts that day were sabotaged by a high stakes game of burglary.
Trent explained how detail-oriented he was with his game planning while making notes in his playbook during classroom film study sessions. He further explained that he had a routine with his playbook and backpack. The two were one and always by his side. Well, almost always.
That afternoon the Titans were calling out plays and formations seemingly when the Ravens broke the huddle. He smelled a rat and instinctively knew that the guilty party in the mysterious playbook heist was the Titans. Yet he had no proof…until years later, during a conversation with Gregg Williams, the long-time NFL defensive coordinator with an impressive albeit shady resume, admitted to Dilfer that the Titans did in fact steal Trent’s playbook. Williams was the Titans DC from 1997 through the 2000 season.
In the end, the clandestine operation failed to produce a win for the Titans. The Ravens 24-10 victory will stand the test of time and appear to many in the future, as being an impressive and dominant playoff win. Yet a closer look will reveal that it wasn’t all that easy, it wasn’t all that pretty. But it was the resilient 2000 Baltimore Ravens, a team that perfected how to win ugly.
A team that became World Champions.