Now you have to wonder, who is going to stop them?
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These underachievers turned overachievers, the ones who’ve seemingly fought uphill all season, wearing a lack of respect on their sleeves, have proved doubters wrong all the way to becoming legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Jackson vs. Henry: Who poses the bigger challenge?
Defenses know they’re coming, they know what they’re going to do, and there’s still little they can do to stop Derrick Henry and Lamar Jackson.“He’s from Mars,” Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. “He’s definitely an outer-space guy.
Ending the Patriots' dynasty at its most vulnerable, impressive as that was, was one thing.
Saturday night’s 28-12 victory over the AFC’s top-seeded Baltimore Ravens was another.
This was the stage where failure would have been expected, even understandable. In this roaring purple place, against these Ravens, winners of 12 in a row and owners of the most prolific rushing offense in NFL history, everything was lined up against the visitors from Nashville.
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Instead, it became the biggest statement yet by these Titans. They’ve managed to make something special out of a season with so many earlier lows that the highs can’t help but be astounding.
Baltimore Ravens have headset communication issues during playoff game
The Ravens found themselves battling more than the Titans on Saturday night.Late in the first quarter of the Ravens’ home playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, CBS reporter Evan Washburn said that some of Baltimore’s coaches were having headset issues.
It’s real, though. These Titans really are capable of beating anyone anywhere.
We didn’t really know that until Saturday night. We do now.
The Titans were somehow able to control a game in which they were outgained 530 yards to 300 and in which quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for only 88 yards compared to Henry’s 195 on 30 carries.
They did it by being more clutch than the Ravens – scoring three touchdowns on third down, forcing turnovers, making two critical defensive stops on fourth-and-short – and continuing to ride the tireless Henry and a steady rushing attack that is proving tortuous for all defenses in its path.
You could say it’s winning ugly, but there is no such thing at this point in a season.
The Titans earned this AFC Championship game.
For as much excitement as they’ve provided in recent months, nothing has been easy. This rarely looked a dominant team as much a gritty, well-coached, hard-working one. That was the identity, and as much as you respect it, you also had to wonder about the upside when the competition increased.
Winners, losers from Titans' stunning divisional round win over Ravens
And there was no NFL team as dominant this season as the Ravens. The playoffs, as they should be, are built to reward worthy regular seasons. The Ravens had all the advantages. They had a raucous home crowd ready for a Super Bowl run. They were rested and seemingly more than ready to tackle a Titans team that had been fighting for its postseason life the past two weeks.
Instead, the Titans pounced first, and an early 14-0 lead was mammoth in a matchup of two teams eager to run the football. Before intermission, the Titans intercepted Lamar Jackson to kill an early drive, setting up one touchdown, and then stopped him on fourth down to set up another.
It was the perfect blend of complementary football that the Titans had been seeking all season while rarely finding. After each fourth-and-short stop, the offense took advantage immediately, with Tannehill hitting a long touchdown pass in the first half and Henry breaking a long run in the third quarter.
The Titans’ offense kept making plays when needed while the defensive plan couldn’t have been much better. The Titans mostly kept Jackson in front of them. They didn’t let the league’s presumptive MVP beat them with his feet. They made him do it with his arm, beginning in the first half when the Ravens fell behind by two touchdowns.
Jackson made some plays. He broke some runs. He hit some throws. But it wasn't enough.
The game script was perfect for the Titans, though. They beat the Ravens at their own game, and in the end, it wasn’t the Titans who looked tired. It was the Ravens as Henry continued to run through and around them, their season gradually slipping away and their fans leaving early for the exits.
Next week will bring a new road challenge, of course, but there’s one lesson to take from Baltimore.
If the Titans can do this to the Ravens, they can do it to anybody.