TAMPA, Fla. -- The way the Baltimore Ravens talked all week, it would be foolish to think they'd stop after winning Super Bowl XXXV.
From the moment linebacker Ray Lewis struck a fierce, gyrating pose as he was announced before the game Sunday until Baltimore walked off after a dominating 34-7 victory over the New York Giants, the Ravens were all sureness and swagger.
They swarmed to the ball, dealing out bone-jarring hits, and they intercepted four of quarterback Kerry Collins' passes, tying a Super Bowl record.
Now the only thing left to conquer is murky history.
"We're the best ever, the best ever," Lewis said as he stood on the podium after being named Most Valuable Player, only the seventh defensive player and the first middle linebacker to win the award.
His triumph capped an unimaginable year that began the night of last year's Super Bowl in Atlanta, when the stabbing deaths of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub led to Lewis being charged with murder, though the charges were later dropped.
He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, admitting he lied to police regarding the still-unsolved murders.
"The man upstairs, I threw it in his hands a long time ago," Lewis said. "There was nothing on earth that could affect me."
Nothing the Giants could do Sunday in front of 71,921 at Raymond James Stadium could keep the Raven defense from stopping them.
The Giants' only touchdown came in the third quarter, with the Ravens already leading, 17-0.
Rookie Ron Dixon took a kickoff and used his speed to burn the Ravens for a 97-yard return, his second 97-yard touchdown return of the playoffs.
The Ravens even had an answer for that: Baltimore's Jermaine Lewis answered back with an 84-yard return of the Giants' kickoff -- a stunning third touchdown in 36 seconds by the two teams combined.
The only debate after the game was where the Raven defense ranks in history.
"Our defense as a whole is the greatest thing ever to exist," said cornerback Chris McAlister, who had one of the Ravens' four interceptions, making one just in front of the Raven goal line.
"It would have been a shutout if we hadn't given up that six points on special teams," McAlister said.
There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl.
Duane Starks had another of the interceptions, returning his 49 yards for a touchdown, the first of that three-touchdown flurry.
"I gave him a few passes early to bait him into throwing it again," Starks said. "I played soft, and I played soft, and I took my chance when I knew I had a great shot to do it. And hey, it cost them.
"We're No. 1, No. 1, baby. I don't think anyone should argue,"
It might be wise to ask someone other than the Ravens how good the Ravens are.
"All I can say is this is the best defense I ever played against," said Collins, held to 112 yards passing and completing only 15 of 39 passes after passing for 381 yards in the NFC title game against Minnesota.
The Giants scored 41 points in that game, but managed only 149 yards and got no closer to the goal line than the 29-yard line against the Ravens, who won their 11th consecutive game.
"They kicked our butts today," Collins said.
Here are the final numbers that matter most: After setting an NFL record by yielding only 165 points during a 16-game season, the Ravens gave up only 23 over four playoff games, and only one offensive touchdown.
The Ravens haven't given up 100 yards to a running back in their last 37 games, and held the Giants' Tiki Barber to 49 in 11 carries.
But they are trying to outrun such defenses as Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain of the 1970s or the Chicago Bears' "46" defense of the 1980s, and there is no stopwatch that spans decades.
"You know, I didn't play back in the 1960s and '70s," Giant defensive end Michael Strahan said. "They are the best that there is right now. I'm not that old, so everything is up for speculation."
Those Pittsburgh defenses produced four Hall of Famers -- Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Joe Greene and Jack Lambert -- and the Bears' Mike Singletary is already in, with Dan Hampton eventually to follow.
This Raven defense is assured of one, safety Rod Woodson, already on the NFL's 75th-anniversary team.
Lewis, only 25, might follow, though his five NFL seasons are only a beginning.
He won the MVP despite being credited with only five tackles, but he had four pass defenses -- a big number for a middle linebacker -- he tipped one pass to set up the Ravens' first interception, and the hits he delivered might have been one reason Collins kept sliding on third down.
The defense is a mix of veterans such as Woodson and linemen Rob Burnett and Tony Siragusa and the young corners, McAlister and Starks.
"Somebody tell me we're not (the best defense of all time," Coach Brian Billick said. "I'll argue it to the death."
It has always been the offense that made the Ravens suspect, and it seemed impossible a team that went five games in October without scoring a touchdown could win the Super Bowl.
Now they have.
"I don't even remember that right now," left tackle Jonathan Ogden said.
Baltimore turned its season around when Billick benched Tony Banks for Trent Dilfer and retooled the Raven offense into a low-risk, run-first, pass-when-you-must attack.
Dilfer, triumphant in his return to the city that spurned him when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him loose after last season, played his role--if not to perfection, more than adequately, though he missed some throws to open receivers that would have gone for touchdowns.
Most important, he didn't throw an interception, completing 12 of 25 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, a 38-yard pass to Brandon Stokley good for a 7-0 lead.
"We have the best defense in the history of the universe. And it's fine that some of these old coaches and players want to argue for their defenses. They should. But this is just proof. Our defense has proven it time after time. We're a great football team because we play to our strengths, and we just won the Super Bowl."
They won it more convincingly than anyone imagined, even though their 34 points included only two offensive touchdowns -- Stokley's and a three-yard run by running back Jamal Lewis on a play that was reviewed and allowed to stand.
Dilfer went deep more than expected, burning the Giants for a 44-yard pass to Qadry Ismail that helped set up a 47-yard field goal by Matt Stover, who made two of three attempts.
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