What an incredibly special performance from an incredibly special football team. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!!
The Tennessee Titans — a team that was once left for dead after a 2-4 start — trounced the AFC’s top seeded Ravens 28-12 in a game that the underdog dominated from start to finish. Most of the players were in grade school during the 2008 Titans-Ravens matchup, and some were probably still in diapers during the 2000 game, but this win certainly felt like sweet, sweet revenge for those Titans teams that came into the postseason as the 1 seed, only to lose at the hands of the Ravens.
The 2019 Titans turned the tables on Baltimore, entering the playoffs as the proverbial “hot team nobody wants to play” and then living up to that description... and then some.
This win feels amazing on so many levels, but for now, let’s jump into winners and winners from Titans 28, Ravens 12.
Derrick Henry: Winner
Another game, another NFL record smashed by the best running back in the game. Henry became the first player ever to rush for at least 180 yards in three straight games. His final tally was 195 yards on 30 carries (6.5 YPC) and he threw in a passing touchdown as well.
I'm running out of things to say about Henry. He’s put this team on his back since returning from a hamstring injury that bothered him for weeks and ultimately led to him being rested in Week 16.
The NFL record for rushing yards in a single postseason belongs to John Riggins, who rushed for 610 yards in the 1982 playoffs on his way to a Super Bowl title with the Redskins. That mark is now in jeopardy. Henry has put up 377 yards in just two games while inspiring quotes like this from his opponents:
Ravens DT Michael Pierce on Titans running back Derrick Henry, who ran for 195 yards against Baltimore:— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 12, 2020
"Probably first time in my career that I felt like it wasn’t much I could do at the time. The dude is a zone unlike anything I’ve played against."
If the Titans keep this run going, Henry has a chance to rewrite the postseason record books for the running back position.
The Titans OL: Winners
You don’t rush for 217 yards without the big boys up front doing some work. The Titans offensive line has gelled as the season wore on and is now playing like the best unit in the league. Full stop.
Ryan Tannehill was sacked just once on a safety blitz by Earl Thomas. Outside of that snap, the Ravens blitz heavy scheme didn’t phase Tennessee’s offense in this game. Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, and Jack Conklin are playing out of their minds right now.
The entire Titans secondary: Winners
Lamar Jackson passed for 365 yards in this game, but it took 59 attempts for him to get there thanks to outstanding coverage from the Titans secondary most of the night. There were a couple lapses where Ravens receivers were able to get free in zones, but when it came down to it, and the Titans needed a stop, they usually got one from the MMCNB crew.
Both starting safeties had huge interceptions. Kevin Byard’s pick on a ball that glanced off Mark Andrew’s hands ended the Ravens first drive and set the tone for the night. Then Kenny Vaccaro undercut an out route late in the game as the Titans worked to put it away.
Those picks bookended a phenomenal performance by a group that was really struggling towards the end of this season. Part of the reason for those struggles was the absence of Adoree’ Jackson with a foot injury. It is now crystal clear how important Jackson is to this team. He broke up a team high three passes in this game, and did it in spectacular fashion. I thought he was incredible tonight.
His new partner in crime was pretty good too. Tramaine Brock took a few weeks to get settled in, but he’s been a huge addition down the stretch, settling in as the Titans third corner alongside Jackson and Logan Ryan. Brock was a gem of a waiver pickup by Jon Robinson. Thanks, Cardinals!
Logan Ryan was the defense’s leading tackler on the game with 13 total stops, including 9 solo tackles. He was all over the field and an important part of containing Jackson in this game.
The Titans even got a huge play from backup safety Dane Cruikshank on defense. He’s mostly contributed on special teams this year — where he is excellent — but he came up with a beautiful pass breakup late in this game to help the Titans finish a dominant performance.
Rashaan Evans, David Long, and Wesley Woodyard: Winners
The Titans were without Jayon Brown, but these guys made that OK in this game. Long made a phenomenal play on the first 4th and 1 stop of the game, knifing in to cut out Jackson’s legs while the defensive line held their ground.
Evans was all over the field making plays tonight, as usual. He showed some outstanding sideline to sideline speed on some plays as he cut off the angles for Lamar to turn up field. The Ravens actual running backs finished with just 42 yards combined in this game and Evans was a big part of that effort to take them away.
Let's also give it up for Wesley Woodyard. He turned back the clock a little bit tonight and made some plays for this defense. I was worried about his speed being a liability in this game, but I was wrong. He looked awfully spry for a 33 year old linebacker playing in January.
Ryan Tannehill: Winner
Listen, there are going to be some box score stats that try to tell you that Tannehill is a reason to worry about the Titans because he threw for just 72 yards against the Patriots and then 88 yards in Baltimore. They’re wrong.
Tannehill was better than his numbers last week and it’s true again this week. He attempted just 14 passes, completing 7, including two gorgeous touchdowns. He also ran a touchdown in himself with a strong goal line effort and had a third TD pass dropped by Darius Jennings.
There was one questionable throw over the middle to Corey Davis that could have been picked off, but besides that he protected the ball and kept the Titans moving when they asked him to. Tannehill can’t help that his running back is on an all-time heater right now.
Jonnu Smith: Winner
What. A. Catch.
The Titans young tight end is growing in confidence week by week and his juggling catch in the back of the end zone on 3rd and goal to start the scoring was huge. In case you were wondering, yes, there is already a “one cheek equals two feet” t-shirt available.
Just an unbelievable effort from Smith to reel that ball in.
Kalif Raymond: Winner
All Kalif does is catch bombs.
Raymond absolutely roasted Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey on this deep post and then made a hell of a catch to finish the play.
The set up from Arthur Smith and the offense was pretty cool too.
#Titans had a really good set-up on the TD throw...— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) January 12, 2020
- Reduced formation (WRs aligned inside the numbers).
- 12 personnel in the game (1RB, 2TE).
- Outside zone run action with Henry at 8 yards deep in the backfield.
Everything there is a “run alert” to the defense.
Raymond has been a joy to watch this year, bringing a much needed speed element to the Titans offense when he comes on the field.
The entire defensive line, but especially Jurrell Casey: Winners
This was the moment that I truly knew the Titans were winning this game.
Casey’s strip sack of Lamar came right on the heels of the Titans first touchdown of the second half and it set up their second. He finished with two sacks in this game.
Casey, a four time Pro Bowler, was drafted by the Titans in 2011 and had to wait until his 7th season to reach the playoffs. He’s been the best player on a bunch of bad teams and it feels great to see him finally get a chance to shine on the national stage.
He and his teammates on the defensive line were great tonight. The Ravens couldn't get any push in the middle of the Tennessee defense thanks to Casey, Jeffery Simmons, DaQuan Jones, and Austin Johnson.
The Ravens were 8 for 8 on 4th and 1 coming into this game, they left 8 for 10 thanks to two huge stuffs by the Titans front. These guys have been tough to move in those situations all year and that continues to be the case. The Titans defense makes you fight for every inch on the field.
Kamalei Correa: Winner
The Ravens traded Correa — their 2016 2nd round pick — to the Titans before the start of the 2018 season and got a 6th round pick in return. They effectively gave up on the former Boise State star after two seasons in Baltimore.
In Tennessee, Correa started slow, not making much of an impact last season, but he’s come on over the second half of this year and he got home for a sack in his old city in this game.
That had to feel pretty good for Correa.
Mike Vrabel and his coaching staff: Winners
Mike Vrabel now has twice as many playoff wins as every other coach that’s been hired since 2018 combined. His team was prepared and fearless coming into this matchup despite being heavy underdogs playing on the road against a rested team.
Dean Pees called the game of his life against his former team, holding the Ravens to just 12 points, 8 points below their lowest total of the regular season and over 20 points below their season long average. It was a masterful game plan that frustrated the soon-to-be MVP and I’m sure it’s one that will be studied by other defensive coordinators around the AFC this summer.
Arthur Smith continued to ride the hot hand with Derrick Henry and mixed in just enough passing to keep Baltimore honest. He also dialed up a fun call on the goal line that featured Marcus Mariota in the pistol before motioning out and leaving Henry to throw a jump pass to the birthday boy Corey Davis out of a wildcat look.
The Titans staff deserves credit all around. They kept this team together during a 2-4 start, through a quarterback change, and now has them peaking at the right time. Every single unit on this team has at least one player that you can point to and say “he got a lot better this year”. That’s good coaching.
Based on the job openings left, it seems likely that the Titans will be able to bring back most of this staff intact. There are strong hints that defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs is the front runner for the Ohio State defensive coordinator gig so he might be the one spot that needs to be filled.
I guess my school's waiting another week for our new defensive coordinator. Hope all those recruits are watching the playoffs!— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 12, 2020
However, my faith in Vrabel’s ability to identify and attract good coaching talent pretty unshakable at this point.
But that’s a topic for another day, hopefully in the distant future.
Titans Fans: Winners
The Ravens players and their fans talked a LOT of trash this week and now they can start talking about the draft. These Titans avenged some painful memories for this fan base and it should heal some old wounds.
For a group that has trended towards the negative (in general) for most of this season, I sensed a surprising amount of quiet confidence from the fan base going into this game. It’s not like we all believed that the Titans were going to win, but we all knew they would compete, even against the best regular season team in the NFL.
The team lived up to that belief and then some. In doing so, they’ve woken up a long dormant section of the fan base and created a palpable buzz across the city of Nashville and the entire state of Tennessee. For those of us that have been here all along, this run has been emotional, but it’s not over yet. For those that are just joining (or coming back), welcome. You’ve missed a lot, but we’ll catch you up.