The Baltimore Ravens are a professional football franchise based in Baltimore, Maryland. They are members of the National Football League (NFL) as part of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the AFC North division. Established in 1996, the Ravens have played their home games at M&T Bank Stadium since 1998.
The team originated in the Cleveland Browns relocation controversy in 1995. Art Modell, then owner of the Browns, intended to relocate the team to Baltimore, a move which resulted in legal action that allowed Modell to retaining the Browns' existing player and staff contracts to spawn a new franchise, while Cleveland retained the Browns' name, history, and archives, then begin play in 1999 after a three-year period of "deactivation".
Modell's team was named the "Baltimore Ravens" after a fan contest and began play in the 1996 season. The team's name is a reference to the poem "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, a famous writer who lived in the city. The Ravens victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV to conclude the 2000 season remains their best season. They also won Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers to conclude the 2012 season. They are the only team with multiple Super Bowl appearances that is undefeated in the Super Bowl.
The Ravens have faced the Green Bay Packers in five head-to-head contests, with the Packers holding the edge, four wins to Baltimore's one.
On November 6, 1995, then Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell announced his intention to move the team to Baltimore, citing the inadequacy of Cleveland Stadium and the lack of a sufficient replacement along with his heavy debt. The decision triggered a flurry of legal activity that ended when representatives of Cleveland and the National Football League (NFL) reached a settlement on February 8, 1996. It stipulated that the Browns' name, colors, and history of the franchise were to remain in Cleveland, including past records and the attribution of its Pro Football Hall of Fame players. A reactivated Cleveland Browns team would then begin play in 1999, while Modell's relocated club would technically and legally be a "new franchise", but avoiding the growing pains of a true expansion team.
The selection of the nickname "Ravens" was inspired by the poetry of former Baltimore resident, Edgar Allan Poe. From a list of more than 100 possible nicknames presented, the list was trimmed to Ravens, Marauders and Americans. Fans were then invited to participate in a phone-in poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. Out of more than 30,000 votes, nearly two-thirds picked Ravens.
The 2000 season saw the Ravens defense set a new NFL record in holding opposing teams to 165 total points. Inspired by linebacker Ray Lewis, who was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Baltimore won their last seven games of the regular season, finishing 12–4 as a wild-card team to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Ravens defeated the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and Oakland Raiders on their way to reach Super Bowl XXXV.
Baltimore then went to Tampa for Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants, cruising to a 34–7 win for their first championship in franchise history. The Ravens recorded four sacks, forced five turnovers, one of which was an interception returned for a touchdown by Duane Starks. Ray Lewis was named the Super Bowl MVP for his leadership, as the defense allowed only 152 yards and no points (New York's only points were from a kick-off touchdown return).
The Ravens jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead behind the arm of Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Jacoby Jones returned the second half kickoff for a 108 yard touchdown (breaking Desmond Howard's Super Bowl Record), and then a power outage occurred. The 49ers pulled to within five, but the Ravens made a defensive stand and took an intentional safety after running the clock down. They then made a tackle on the free kickoff to seal the win. This was also Ray Lewis's final game.