Tennessee cheated in the 2000 playoffs -- and the Ravens won anyway

The ESPN documentary "Bullies of Baltimore" contained a startling revelation: the Titans had the Ravens' playbook in the 2000 postseason because they stole it from Trent Dilfer.

Dilfer said that when the Ravens were in Tennessee for the regular-season game, his playbook was missing from his duffel bag. Just his playbook. He said that in the playoff game (Jan 7, 2001), the Titans knew all the Ravens' plays; were even calling them out by their names before the snap. Dilfer said that several years later he ran into a Titans coach who admitted that they stole the playbook.

I have all the Ravens' 2000 season playoff games in a DVD set the NFL issued. (Found it on eBay a few years ago; I recommend it. There are still sets like this out there.) After watching the documentary I rewatched the game. And it's obvious that Dilfer was right.

It's especially obvious in the running plays. The Ravens would use misdirection, but there would be a Titan or two waiting in the hole or gap Jamal Lewis was heading for. I can still see one image in my mind: the whole Ravens line was heading left but Lewis runs right -- and there's a linebacker just standing in place, waiting right for him.

By the end of the game even the announcers appeared to notice. The Ravens tried an wide receiver end-around and there were multiple Titans waiting. "The Titans played that like they knew it was coming," the announcer said.

It's AMAZING that the Ravens won that game. Their offense was not great that season anyway; Lewis was the one thing they had and he was stifled.

It all came down, as it had in the regular-season game at Tennessee, to Titans kicker Al del Greco being terrible. He missed two first-half field goals. He actually missed three, but got a second chance on one because of a penalty on the Ravens. So it was tied at halftime. Then early in the fourth quarter, he had a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. That changed the entire game. With the Ravens ahead, Tennessee had to try to move the ball against that best-ever Ravens defense. Ray Lewis stole the ball away from Eddie George on a pass and ran it in for a touchdown, and that was that.

But if del Greco had been competent, and had made even one of those four missed kicks, the Ravens would have been behind. There's no way that Ravens offense would have been able to come from behind with the Titans knowing their playbook.

I also gotta say the Ravens didn't respond quickly enough to Dilfer's insight. If you know the other team has your playbook, you can't run trick plays, like wide receiver end-arounds. What you should do is run an all-passing offense, because even if the defense knows what the play is, you still have 3 or 4 options on each one. You cannot run the football if the other team knows your plays, but the Ravens kept trying anyway.

Del Greco's incompetence was great karma. Imagine if Tennessee had won that game; we wouldn't remember the 2000 Ravens the same way, and the cheating Titans would have gotten away with it like the Patriots always did.

The opinions posted here are those of the writer of this article. They are in no way official comments from the team, the editors of this site or SB Nation as a whole, and should not be misconstrued as such.