BALTIMORE _ Nary a single Titans player or coach was with the organization when Tennessee lost twice to the Baltimore Ravens as a No. 1 seed both in 2000 and 2008.
But when the Titans traveled here Saturday night and KO’ed the AFC’s top seed with an impressive 28-12 divisional playoff victory, it exorcised many demons for the organization and the Tennessee fan base. The Ravens entered the game 14-2 with 12 straight victories.
The Titans did it with a game plan that slowed down the high-powered Baltimore offense in the red zone, as Tennessee was content to let MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson move the ball between the 20s and then stiffen in the red zone. Jackson ran for 143 yards and threw for 365 more, but accounted for just 12 points as the Titans held the Ravens 21 points below their season average.
It also didn’t hurt that the Titans defense essentially forced five turnovers in the game – collecting two interceptions and a fumble, but also stopping the Ravens twice on fourth-and-1 situations.
It was the type of effort by the Titans that the Ravens of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would have been proud of. Statistically, the Ravens outgained the Titans 530 yards to 300, but lost by 16 points, thanks to taking advantage of opportunities.
“Not to say that anybody looked past this, but the way we were on a roll, no one thought it would be over this quick,” Ravens defensive lineman Michael Pierce said.
Added running back Mark Ingram, “They whipped our (expletive) today, so we’re going home. You know what I mean?”
While the top-seeded Ravens head home, the sixth-seeded Titans will head the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 2002 with a chance to reach the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history. The Titans will travel to the winner of Sunday’s Houston-Kansas City game.
Running back Derrick Henry was again the Titans offensive engine, grinding the Ravens for 195 yards on 30 carries and even throwing a touchdown pass to Corey Davis out of the wildcat formation in the third quarter. Henry also became the first player in NFL history to have three straight games of at least 180 yards rushing. But for the Titans star, he said it was about the team effort and the way the team has played with confidence in two straight road playoff wins.