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Following nearly 15 years of heartbreak after the Colts unceremoniously left Baltimore in the middle of the night, the city rejoiced in the opportunity to once again be a football town when the Baltimore Ravens were born in 1996. Today, 20 years after the Ravens became an NFL franchise, one key principle remains unchanged from the immediate identity that the team carved out for itself; punishing and unrelenting defense.
A solid front office started things off right in their inaugural NFL draft, picking up two players known throughout the sport. First overall pick Jonathan Ogden went on to become an 11-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer. Their other pick in the first round was Ray Lewis, the man who would go on to embody everything that being a Baltimore Raven means.
The impact on the field was felt immediately as the Ravens record improved over the course of their first four seasons, culminating in a convincing 34-7 Super Bowl victory in 2000 against the New York Giants. Ray Lewis was named the Super Bowl MVP.
Lewis would go on to another Super Bowl victory with the Ravens 13 years later with a completely different roster around him. The grizzled veteran served as an inspiration as he overcame an injury to play effectively with one good arm. Quarterback Joe Flacco was the MVP of this game that pitted Coach John Harbaugh against his brother Jim’s squad, the San Francisco 49ers. An epic game in New Orleans ended with a 34-31 victory for Baltimore and the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy. More information about the history of the Baltimore Ravens can be found by clicking here.
This year’s team has shaken off the 5-11 record of last season and is working toward achieving an elite level of play once again. Flacco is back from a knee injury, and shows no signs of distress as he dishes the ball out to his playmakers in Steve Smith and free agent acquisition Mike Wallace. Terrance West in the backfield promises to make for a balanced attack.
The defense is anchored by Terrell Suggs, the veteran linebacker that opposing teams always have to game plan against. Teaming up with CJ Mosley, the Ravens second level is one that most running backs cannot penetrate and one that receivers fear. The signing of former San Diego Charger Eric Weddle in the offseason has added depth to a backfield which has been hurting since the departure of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
Expectations are high in Baltimore as the Ravens hope to recapture the AFC North title which was won by the rival Cincinnati Bengals last season. However, another bitter rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers always seek to spoil the fun.