TAMPA, Fla. -- Ray Lewis said there was no mystery to the rout.
"They hadn't seen anything like our defense," the linebacker said after Baltimore's 34-7 rout of New York in the Super Bowl. "You're gonna be hit for 60 minutes. We fly to the ball, have fun and smile. We knew what we had to do. We played like this all year. We changed nothing."
But much has changed for Lewis.
A year ago, on the night of the Super Bowl, he was arrested and charged in the deaths of two men at an Atlanta club. The image of him dressed in an orange prison jump suit, his hands in handcuffs, haunted the NFL and this game.
It was in the back of his mind after he won the MVP award Sunday night.
"There is no emotion like this," he said, "right now, to be here after being where I was last year. The man upstairs doesn't put you through tragedy without bringing some triumph."
It was as close as Lewis came all week to discussing the double murder. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the case and was fined $250,000 by the league, a punishment which is being appealed. He faced questions on the affair sullenly all week, showing no remorse, a floppy hat pulled down over his forehead as teammates and coach Brian Billick defended him.
Lewis, the NFL's defensive player of the year, said the tipoff to how this Super Bowl would go for the Giants came very early.
"Three and out. Three and out. Three and out," he said. "You got problems the rest of the day."
He was right about that.
Lewis and the Ravens defense broke the Giants' spirit with a thoroughly dominating display. He was in middle of most of it, stuffing the run, deflecting two passes, one of which became an interception, and confounding New York all game long.
After the game, he glowed.
"I'm 25 and I'm a world champion," he said. "There is no feeling like this. My body is tingling."
Lewis was the last player introduced before the game and followed a season-long ritual as he came through the tunnel and onto the field. "I picked some grass up," he said. "That was a symbol that this was our turf."
And then the Ravens actually claimed it.
They smothered the Giants, never giving them any room to operate. It was a thorough shutdown with Baltimore limiting New York to 152 yards and just 11 first downs, three of those by penalties.
"This is not boastful," Lewis said, "but there's no denying today we are the best defense ever. We dominated everybody we played.
"We weren't cocky about it. It was just confidence. We didn't come here to lose. I came to Tampa to do one thing -- win a Super Bowl."
In then hours before the game, Lewis said he talked with tight end Shannon Sharpe about what the Ravens offense needed to do for Baltimore to win this game.
"I told him, 'Just give us 10 points and the game is over.' "
The Ravens supplied that number by halftime and kept building on it after that. And with Lewis anchoring the defense, there was not much the Giants could do about it.
Lewis said this defense is not as good as it can be.
"You can always play better," he said. "Anytime we step on the field, we can always improve."
That was not what the Giants needed to hear.
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