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The history of football in Baltimore is proud, it’s duplicitous, and it doesn’t end with the warmest feelings toward former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The Baltimore Colts won championships in 1958 and ‘59, won Super Bowl V, and created coaching legends, Weeb Ewbank and Don Shula. But then they left in the dead of night for Indianapolis in 1984, and owner Bob Irsay became a four-letter word in Baltimore.
A decade later, and with expansion on the horizon, all signs pointed to Baltimore getting a new team, until Paul Tagliabue, helping to make it easier for Washington to move its team to suburban Maryland, got in the way. Expansion instead went to Carolina and Jacksonville.
Then came Art Model’s decision to move the Browns to Baltimore and play as the Baltimore Browns. But in a never before agreement reached with the league, he was allowed to move to Baltimore and start over as a legally new franchise, and all things Browns, from team colors to team records, would stay in Cleveland.
It has worked out for both cities. The Cleveland Browns got a restart in 1999, and Baltimore got pro football again with the birth of the Ravens, a team that has had far more success in Baltimore than it ever had in Ohio.
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Championships by the Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl XXXV
The Ravens featured a suffocating defense that allowed just 165 points and 970 rushing yards all season. So it wasn’t to anyone’s surprise when the defense put up a historic performance in the Super Bowl. They allowed just 152 yards of offense all game, the third fewest in Super Bowl history, and Giants quarterback Kerry Collins finished with a quarterback rating of 7.1.
Trent Dilfer was as efficient as he needed to be, throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown. Jamal Lewis rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. But Ray Lewis played huge on the biggest stage of his career, and that sealed the deal.
Lewis made five tackles and blocked four passes, and was the game’s deserving MVP. In total, the Ravens forced 11 punts and intercepted four passes, and the Giants’ only touchdown in the 34-7 route came on a kick return.
Super Bowl XLVII
In another unsexy quarterback matchup, the Ravens’ second Super Bowl was Joe Flacco vs. Colin Kaepernick. But unlike the Super Bowl 12 years earlier, these QBs came to play. Kaepernick threw for 302 yards and ran for another 62 yards, accounting for two touchdowns. But Flacco threw for 287 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions, and he took home the game’s MVP with a 34-31 win.
In the final game of his long career with the Ravens, Ray Lewis finished with seven tackles.
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The Ravens have won two AFC titles, and each time they went on to win the Super Bowl. They have advanced to a total of four AFC Championship Games, losing to the Steelers after the 2008 season and to the Patriots after the 2011 season.
The Ravens have won the AFC North six times and have been in the playoffs a total of 13 times.
The Ravens nickname was an overwhelming choice by residents and came from long-time Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven. And fans were so excited for the new team that when season tickets first went on sale, 50,000 of them were sold within the first two weeks.
They are one of just two teams with a marching band, and Baltimore’s Marching Ravens have been operating continuously since 1947. Because they stayed in Baltimore when the Colts left town, their nickname is the “band that would not die.”
Top Players in Baltimore Ravens History
When the Ravens began in 1996, all of the Browns players currently under contract became the first group of Ravens. But the very first Ravens-only players were drafted in 1996, and what a draft it was.
With the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Ravens selected offensive tackle, Jonathan Ogden. As the very first pick in franchise history, he was a home run. The 11-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro were named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He became a Super Bowl champion in 2001 and was a Hall of Fame inductee in 2012.
The Ravens had a pair of first-round picks in 1996, and the second one, the 26th overall, was used to take a linebacker out of Miami named Ray Lewis. He was expected to be good. What he became was legendary.
His 2,059 career tackles and 1,568 solo tackles are both NFL records. He made it to 13 Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro ten times, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, the first of his two Super Bowl championships. A member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, Lewis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Ed Reed didn’t come to the Ravens until after their first Super Bowl win, but he would have fit perfectly on that 2000 Ravens team as a defensive force. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, a five-time first-team All-Pro, a member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, a Super Bowl champion, and a Hall of Fame inductee in 2019.
Top Coaches in Baltimore Ravens History
The first of the Super Bowl-winning coaches for the Ravens was Brian Billick, who came to Baltimore after setting records in Minnesota as the offensive coordinator with the Vikings. During his tenure as the OC in Minnesota, the Vikings scored a then single-season record of 556 points.
He didn’t have explosive offenses in Baltimore, never scoring more than 391 points in any one season. But within two years of taking over the Ravens, he was a Super Bowl champion because of a defense that was top-5 in six of his nine seasons.
Since Billick left after the 2007 season, John Harbaugh has been the Ravens head coach. He is now the winningest coach in franchise history, a Super Bowl champion himself, and he’s continued the tradition of fielding one of the best defenses in the NFL.
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