If the Baltimore Ravens' 2001 Super Bowl XLV team played the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII team, "who" would win? Would it be the earlier version, with one of the best defenses of all-time, or would it be the multi-dimensional offense of the current one?
They say that defense wins championships and if correct, then this match-up should be a no-brainer. The 2000-01 Ravens were such an amazing defensive squad, that they held opponents to ten points a game, less than half the amount this year's team allowed (21.5 ppg). However, it ended up being a goal-line defensive stand by the Ravens that was the difference in winning Super Bowl 47. Or was it?
The 2000-01 version gave up just under 250 total yards per game, over 1 hundred less than the current one (351 ypg). There is no comparison of the two defensive units and the only common denominator is the two versions of LB Ray Lewis.
The 25 year old Ray was obviously more physically gifted, faster sideline-to-sideline and much better dropping back into pass coverage. However, the elderly Ray is much smarter and more aware of opposing offense's tendencies and able to position his teammates like a veteran coach, much less a veteran player.
As different as the two defenses are, there is the same obvious difference in the two offenses. The 2012 regular season Ravens offense was the highest scoring one in franchise history. The offense carried the defense this season compared to the 2000 Ravens offense hanging around and scoring just enough points to turn games over to the defense to protect the lead, and many of those points were actually scored by the defense or at least set the offense up on a short field via the turnover.
Surprisingly, the stats were not so drastically different and do not tell the vast superiority of the 2012 version over the 2000 one. The 2012 Ravens scored an average of 25 points per game as opposed to the 2000 team scoring 21 ppg. The current offense averaged only about 40 more total yards per game.
QB Joe Flacco had his career high in passing yards (3,817), which was a bit under 800 more yards than the combination of Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer (3,080), who split the majority of quarterbacking duties back in 2000. Ray Rice might be one of the most dangerous players in the NFL nowadays, but his 1,143 rushing yards were still less than Jamal Lewis' 1,364 in 2000.
To show how dismal the 2000 passing offense was,TE Shannon Sharpe was the team's leading receiver, with 810 yards, while WR Anquan Boldin hauled in 921 yards worth of receptions this past season.
The current version would have a tough time holding off the pass rush of the older one, even with the success of the re-vamped offensive line. The 2000 defense didn't have to blitz that much so they could drop more into coverage and with the receivers having a tough time getting open, Flacco might be harassed more than he could handle.
CB Chris McAlister would be a great, physical player to stick with Boldin and Duane Starks would be fast enough to run with Torrey Smith and may God help Dennis Pitta going over the middle against a younger Lewis as well as LB Jamie Sharper.
Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams would plug the middle and the speed of that 2000 defense could seal the edge and gaps that Ray Rice would be looking for. Rod Woodson might not quite be Ed Reed, but he was one of the best at his position back then in the entire league.
Trent Dilfer wouldn't scare any defense but the 2012 Ravens pass defense made a lot of second and even third stringers look pretty good at times during the regular season. The Ravens defense this year gave up chunks of yardage to good running teams and Jamal Lewis was one of the best back then and on the verge of breaking the 2000-yard barrier a couple of season in the future.
This would be a great match-up to debate, but for my money, as good as Flacco and the entire team played in the 2013 post season, they would be hard pressed to play the perfect game it would take to defeat the 2001 Super Bowl Champs.
Your turn. Let the debate begin!