I can’t stand the Baltimore Ravens. Seeing their uniforms or seeing fake wannabe preacher Ray Lewis on TV taking some false moral high ground evokes a visceral reaction for me. Despite the fact that its been 15 years since the Titans shared a division with the Purple Browns, I still ranked them #2 behind just the Colts when it comes to rivalries. I just can’t stand this team.
Titans-Ravens used to be one of the NFL’s premier rivalries and many fans, like me, still have a lot of old AFC Central hate left in us. Its been over 6 years now since the Ratbirds’ last trip to Nashville. It will be good to relive some of the old days this weekend. The Titans are making this a homecoming weekend for former players which is really cool. Just seeing some of those names and faces on Sunday will stir up some old feelings about this rivalry, but if you want to go ahead and unpack those feelings now, I’ve pulled together my top 8 reasons to despise the Ravens. Use these as motivation to get loud in that stadium on Sunday.
8 - Joe Flacco’s Eyebrow(s?)
7 - They let the Jaguars beat them 44-7 in London
I mean c’mon guys...
6 - Brian Billick
Need I say more?
5 - November 12, 2000
After moving in to their current home at Nissan Stadium (called Adelphia Coliseum back then) at the beginning of the 1999 season, the Titans won their first 13 home games (including the Music City Miracle game in the 1999 playoffs). They were invincible at home. Until November 12, 2000 when the Ravens came to town. The Titans were 8-1 coming in to the game. The Ravens were 6-4 after benching their original starting quarterback, Tony Banks, in favor of Trent Dilfer during a 14-6 home loss to the Titans just 3 weeks before.
The Titans were the defending AFC Champions and were absolutely rolling towards another playoff appearance. This team was widely considered to be the best in the NFL. They had a dominant defense led by Jevon Kearse, Samari Rolle, Randall Godfrey, Kenny Holmes, Marcus Robertson, and Blaine Bishop balanced by a solid offense based around the bruising running style of Eddie George. This was probably the best team in the history of the franchise and they hadn’t lost at home in a year and a half. This was a game they were supposed to win.
With the game tied at 17 and just 4 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, Perry Phenix picked off a Trent Dilfer pass and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown sending Adelphia in to a frenzy — its hard to describe how electric that stadium was back then — and appearing to send the Titans to a 9-1 start. Then Al Del Greco missed an extra point for the first time in 7 years. And it wasn’t one of the modern, long extra points either. It was the gimme, automatic, go-to-the-bathroom-now-cause-there-is-no-way-he-misses-this variety 19 yard extra point. But that wasn’t going to matter, right? The Titans just needed their elite defense keep Trent Dilfer & Company out of the end zone for 4 minutes. The Ravens proceeded to march down the field, aided substantially by a bail out pass interference call against Dainon Sidney on a 4th and 2 play, and scored with 19 seconds left to take a 24-23 lead. However, the Titans would get one more shot. A good kick return set up a quick pass to Eddie George and then a 20 yard Steve McNair run to put the Titans in field goal range at the Ravens 25 yard line. But Del Greco missed the 43 yard attempt.
The Titans had this game won multiple times and couldn’t finish the job. It was one of the most frustrating games I can remember watching, and it stole some of the mojo from that stadium and from Al Del Greco. Both would come back to haunt the Titans again later.
4 - Steve McNair, Derrick Mason, and Samari Rolle
These guys were Titans legends and we had to watch all of them finish their careers playing for the hated Ravens. It was particularly frustrating to watch the McNair-to-Mason connection in the 2006 and 2007 seasons after watching them in two-tone blue together for so many years.
3 - Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is one of the most self-congratulatory, phony athletes I’ve ever watched play any sport. I’ll leave the legal issues out of this — you can easily Google “Ray Lewis charges” for information if you’re not familiar — although it was the epitome of hypocrisy when he said on ESPN airwaves that “there are some things you can cover up, and there are some things you can’t” during a holier-than-thou rant regarding Ray Rice’s domestic abuse incident in 2014.
Lewis was also the king of jumping on a pile late at the end of a play and then jumping up to do some elaborate dance like he had anything to do with making the actual play. Don’t get me wrong, Ray was an all-time great level player, but it was pretty apparent that he was in a hurry to take credit for as much as he possibly could. His constant dancing and preening made him insufferable to me.
That’s what made the moment below the exact point in time that I knew Eddie George would always have a special place in my heart.
2 - January 10, 2009
The Titans have been the 1 seed in the AFC twice since moving to Nashville: 2000 and 2008. In both years they drew the Ravens at home in the Divisional Round, and in both years they lost. The 2008 season was the last time the Titans made the playoffs — a streak they hope to end this year. A surprising 13-3 regular season based around a strong defense, the thunder and lightning rushing combo of LenDale White and Chris Johnson, and the game managing of Kerry Collins had led them to the 1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
Once again, this game turned out to be among the most annoying football games I’ve ever watched. The Titans moved the ball pretty well during a low scoring game, but ended possessions with a fumbled snap on a 4th down play at the Ravens 30 yard line, a Samari Rolle interception at the Ravens 12 yard line, a LenDale White fumble at the Ravens 16 yard line, and an Alge Crumpler fumble at the Ravens 1 yard line. They also had a missed field goal from the normally reliable Rob Bironas. The Titans outgained Baltimore 391 to 211 yards of total offense and picked up 21 first downs to the Ravens 9. It was clear who the better team was on this day, and it was the team that lost. To rub salt in the wound, not only did Rolle have an interception against his former team, but Derrick Mason scored the only touchdown for the Ravens. It was as devastating a loss as you could have imagined. I was there for this one and it still hurts to this day.
1 - January 7, 2001
The other time the Titans earned the 1 seed in the playoffs was in the 2000 season. They finished 13-3 with one of the three losses being the home game against the Ravens that I described in #5 above. Again, this team was thought to be even better than the 1999 team that went to the Super Bowl. After the Ravens had burst the magic bubble around Adelphia Coliseum during the regular season matchup, the Titans came out looking for revenge and got off to a good start. They took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field for an opening touchdown on a 2 yard Eddie George run. The Titans drive lasted 11 plays and featured zero 3rd downs. It was a picture perfect start for a team that wanted to get out ahead and then let its defense grind you in to submission. The teams then traded a few punts before a coverage bust allowed Trent Dilfer to hit Shannon Sharpe for a 56 yard gain on 3rd and 10 setting up a 1 yard Jamal Lewis TD run.
Later in the second quarter things started to get ominous for the Titans. A nice long drive from the offense put them in field goal range. Del Greco missed the 50 yard attempt, but the Ravens were called offsides giving him a second chance. The next kick, from 45 yards, was blocked. A quick 3 and out got the ball back to the Titans offense and they once again drove deep in to Ravens territory, setting up a 31 yard field goal attempt for Del Greco. He missed again.
The 3rd quarter saw the two teams trade field goals, leaving the score at 10-10 heading in to the final period. That’s when it all fell apart for the Titans. A quick Titans drive left them with a chance to take the lead, but Del Greco’s 37 yard attempt was blocked again and this time it was returned for a Ravens touchdown. After trading 3 and outs, the Titans were once again driving when a McNair pass hit Eddie George in the hands, but he bobbled it right in to the arms of Ray Lewis who returned it for a touchdown. From there, the Ravens defense protected the 24-10 victory and the best team in Titans history was eliminated in their first game of the postseason.
The Titans outgained the Ravens 317 to 134 total yards and picked up 23 first downs to Baltimore’s 6. Again, the Titans managed to lose a game to the Ravens that they clearly should have won. Trent Dilfer went down as the winning quarterback despite going a ghastly 5 for 16 for 117 yards — 56 of which came on that one blown coverage to Shannon Sharpe. Del Greco, who retired following this game, missed 4 field goals that day including the initial kick where the Ravens were offsides. He had missed 6 field goals total all season before this game. The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl on the strength of what still stands as one of the all-time greatest defenses in NFL history, but that just as easily could have been the Titans. How might that have changed the way the Titans were thought of then? How they’re thought of now? We’ll never know thanks to the Ravens.
This was really when my hard feelings towards the Ravens started. They were a mere nuisance before. A regular division rival who happened to be the team who lucked up and ended the Titans home winning streak. But this game was something else. It robbed us of a possible championship, and 17 years later we can now appreciate how hard those truly are to come by. This Titans team isn’t yet to the level of the 2000 Titans and this Ravens team certainly isn’t to the level of the 2000 Ravens, but when the Titans and Ravens hit the field on Sunday, its going to feel like 2000 all over again for me.