There is plenty of history behind the rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, these former divisional foes have had plenty of hard hitting contests before and have met twice before in the playoffs. Once in 2001, the Ravens dispatched the Titans at home on their way to their first championship and then a few years later the Titans got a measure of revenge by stunning Baltimore as well.
But we all know that talk of history, at least in this case has nothing to do with the present. There are only a handful of players that even remember those games. We can look at this season and use that as a basis to work from for this divisional playoff game. The Titans came out 13-10 winners in Week Five and there are several things to do stand out in terms of trying to figure out who was the edge Saturday.
The play of both quarterbacks will have a huge say in who wins this game. Rookie Joe Flacco had his problems the first time around with the zone cover schemes of the Titans and threw two costly interceptions but he was fairly accurate otherwise 18 for 27 (66% completion rating). Kerry Collins looked rattled early as well but did lead the winning drive to capture the victory in the waning moments. Whomever wins this battle advances to the next round.
Both teams don’t just want to run the ball, they NEED to do it in order to be successful. Baltimore’s front seven did a fabulous job limiting the Titans to 47 yds. However the Ravens did run the ball adequately for a combined 132 on the ground. The X factor here is Le’Ron McClain who on 11 carries rushed for 51 yards and a score, that a 4.6 ypc. At that time McGahee was the feature back and received the most carries, it will be interesting with the roles reversed how the Titans can slow the bruising back.
So the line play on both sides of the ball will be important to that first priority of rushing the ball. The Titan defensive line is an impressive group and injuries aside to Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch they will provide the pressure. But they have been nicked up and there is a question of weather All-Pro Center Kevin Mawae will play too. Meanwhile Baltimore appears healthy across the front on both ends.
The Ravens need to keep the heat on the quarterback as Kerry Collins is prone to turnovers. When they force multiple miscues they are 9-2. They need to run the ball to take the pressure off Flacco and put themselves in manageable third downs. Flacco doesn’t need to be spectacular but one thing I picked up on re-watching the Ravens playoff run of 2000 (Buy it at Amazon.com), he needs to make one or two plays. If he does that and doesn’t cough the ball up Baltimore gets this one.
Ravens 17 Titans 13