Tampa, Fla. The Baltimore Ravens blustered and bragged and brazenly described how their defense would smother the New York Giants.
Then they went out and did it.
Led by Ray Lewis, who added the MVP prize to his defensive player of the year award, the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 on Sunday to win their first Super Bowl.
The defense that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game regular season intercepted four Kerry Collins passes and held New York to 149 yards of offense.
"If you put this in a storybook, nobody would believe it," said Lewis, who was arrested last year on murder charges in the stabbing deaths of two men at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice.
"We didn't just break records, we shattered them," Lewis said. "We dominated, literally. This is what you work your whole life for. You come from childhood, dreaming whatever you want it to be, but now, at 25, to be a world champion, what else can I dream of?"
Duane Starks returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown, the first of three TDs on three plays late in the third quarter. The other two were back-to-back kickoff returns for scores by Ron Dixon of New York and Jermaine Lewis of Baltimore, the first time that's happened in a Super Bowl.
"I feel our defense is the best ever," said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, a sentiment echoed by his teammates after the game.
The victory gave 75-year-old Art Modell his first Super Bowl win in 40 years as an owner. He won one NFL title in 35 seasons in Cleveland before moving his franchise to Baltimore in 1996, but he had never been to a Super Bowl, losing two close AFC title games in Cleveland.
Modell won by beating his good friend Wellington Mara of the Giants, who has 75 seasons in the NFL.
"I'm a very happy man," said Modell, who continued to say he has no hard feelings about Cleveland, even though the city still has a lot of hard feelings about him.
So effective was Baltimore's defense that the New York offense never got inside the Ravens 29. Baltimore would have had the first shutout in a Super Bowl if the special teams had not allowed Dixon's 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The game might as well have been stopped after Trent Dilfer's 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley with 6:50 left in the first quarter gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead.
"I don't put the blame on anyone but myself. I just got beat," said Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn, who had been a standout throughout the playoffs.
Before the game Dilfer said all he wanted to be was the quarterback of a team that won a Super Bowl despite its quarterback. He is after completing 12 of 25 passes for 153 yards, in his return to Tampa Bay, where he was released by the Buccaneers after last season.
"I didn't throw the ball very well," Dilfer said. "But we talked about making big plays and we made them when we needed them. We aren't pretty, like St. Louis, but we got the job done. This is a team that puts wins ahead of stats."
This was punt-o-rama for most of the game, the 11th straight victory for Baltimore.
Brad Maynard of the Giants and Kyle Richardson each ended up breaking the record of nine punts Maynard had 11, Richardson 10. By contrast, the Giants had just one punt in their 41-0 win over Minnesota in the NFC title game.
It was still 10-0 late in the third quarter when the game exploded.
Starks started it by stepping in front of Amani Toomer on a first down, grabbing the ball and racing 49 yards untouched to the end zone to give Baltimore a 17-point lead.
Game over? Not quite.
Dixon, who returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in New York's playoff victory against Philadelphia, returned the kickoff 97 yards for a score.
But then Jermaine Lewis took Brad Daluiso's kickoff, weaved through the Giants and ran up the sideline for an 84-yard TD and another 17-point lead, 24-7.
"The emotional flop had to be devastating to them," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Giants defensive end Michael Strahan agreed.
"That gave us new life and then when they take it right back it takes it right out of us," Strahan said. "We didn't go out and create turnovers. It was going to be a field-position battle. It was going to be a turnover battle and we lost both of those. If you do that against a team like that, it's not going to help your chances."
Jamal Lewis, who carried 29 times for 102 yards, added a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter and Matt Stover, who had a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter, added a 38-yarder in the fourth.
Neither team had a first down in its first two possessions, but Baltimore kept inching closer to the New York goal on the exchange of punts.
The Giants got a first down on their third possession, when they were pinned back against their goal line. But they had to punt and the Ravens got a 34-yard return from Jermaine Lewis that gave them a first down at the New York 41 to start the series.
On the second play, Dilfer found Stokley behind Sehorn for the game's first score. But that was one of the few times the Baltimore quarterback was on target, twice missing open receivers behind the Giants' secondary.
"Trent just threw a perfect ball," Billick said.
Five minutes into the second quarter, New York's Jessie Armstead picked off a poorly thrown Dilfer pass and ran it into the end zone. But the Giants' Keith Hamilton was called for holding on the play, negating the interception.
The Ravens got their second big play late in the first half, a 44-yard pass from Dilfer to Qadry Ismail that set up Stover's 47-yarder that made it 10-0.
The Giants mounted their first threat after that, as Tiki Barber ran 27 yards to the Baltimore 29. But on the next play, Collins went for the end zone and Chris McAlister intercepted to send the Ravens into intermission with the 10-point lead.
"I didn't expect to turn over the ball five times," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "You can't play football like that. When you do that against a team like that, this is what happens."