The Tennessee Titans stunned and upset top-seeded Baltimore Ravens with a 28-12 win in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The loss knocks out the Lamar Jackson and the […]
The Tennessee Titans stunned and upset top-seeded Baltimore Ravens with a 28-12 win in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The loss knocks out the Lamar Jackson and the 14-2 Ravens, who had Super Bowl aspirations with the NFL’s best regular season record.
Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher in the regular season, and Ryan Tannehill, a somewhat unlikely savior, proved to be too much for Baltimore’s defense. Jackson and the Ravens offense were able to move the ball, but costly turnovers and failed fourth down conversions ultimately doomed them.
Setting the Stage
Background, How the Teams Got Here, The Stakes at Hand – Feel Free to Skip Ahead to Game Recap
The Tennessee Titans earned a playoff berth as the 6th seed in the AFC, finishing 9-7 in the regular season. Tennessee finished second in the AFC South but ahead of teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wildcard race.
After making a switch at quarterback from Oregon product Marcus Mariota to former Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Titans won eight of their final eleven games en route to a playoff berth.
Few gave them a legitimate chance against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots: who never lose at home, especially in the playoffs. But Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and the Titans defense did just that. They upset the Patriots in Foxborough, holding Tom Brady’s offense just 13 points.
The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have to play on Wildcard Weekend, because since September 29, no one has been able to beat them. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens high-flying offense rattled off 12 straight wins after a 2-2 start to earn the AFC’s top seed and the NFL’s best record.
Jackson will be named the 2019 NFL MVP after a season for the record books, and his defense didn’t allow more than 23 points during this 12-game win streak. Of these 12 games, only four were decided by a single score. The Ravens will outscore you, and they’ll shut down your offense. The easiest possible winning formula in the NFL.
The Ravens entered the game as 10-point favorites, the largest spread of the playoffs this year so far. Not only would the Titans have to overcome Baltimore’s strong defense, but find a way to contain and/or outscore Lamar Jackson.
The Titans would receive the ball first on an unseasonably warm night in Baltimore, Maryland: 69 degrees, on January 11, at 8:15 PM.
Tannehill’s first pass attempt would be completed to MyCole Pruitt for 15 yards, but a delay of game penalty would help the Ravens defense quickly end the drive after allowing just one first down.
On the Ravens first offensive play, Jackson turned a broken play into a four-yard gain, covering at least 15-20 yards in total ground. Jackson took a run-pass-option (RPO) 9 yards on the next play, immediately putting his legs to use.
Baltimore’s offense quickly began to churn, with a 12-yard Mark Andrews rush and 19-yard Gus Edwards carry, all on the ground. But then on Jackson’s second pass attempt, tight end Hayden Hurst allowed the ball to tip off his hands, and Titans safety Kevin Byard was lined up for a timely interception.
Jackson himself was called for unsportmanslike for his play-ending tackle, tacking on 15 yards to Byard’s 31-yard return.
After pounding the rock a few times with the NFL’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry, Tannehill picked up a first down and more after Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor was called for unnecessary roughness.
On 2nd-and-goal, former Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (a key offseason acquisition) sacked Tannehill for an 8-yard loss. On 3rd down, Tannehill aired out a pass to Jonnu Smith who used one extended hand to corral the pass in the back of the endzone for an amazing touchdown.
After relatively quietly passing days from Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo in the earlier game, Tannehill’s touchdown pass easily became the top play of the Divisional Round to that point in time.
Next Gen Stats further broke down the difficulty of the pass and catch:
The visiting Titans held a 7-0 lead as the first quarter came to a close, with the Ravens already facing a 4th-and-1 situation.
Baltimore hadn’t missed on 4th-and-1 all season, so Ravens head coach John Harbaugh figured why not go for it on his own 45-yard line. But Jackson was stuffed on a keeper, coming up a couple feet short of the first down.
Tennessee’s response stunned me: Tannehill immediately launched a bomb into the endzone, caught by Kalif Raymond for a 45-yard touchdown. The crowd, announcers, and probably all viewers regardless of team affiliation, were stunned. In the blink of an eye, the Titans went up 14-0 as Tannehill threw passing touchdowns on back-to-back plays.
Tennessee now held an unlikely 14-0 lead, but the second quarter had barely begun, with just 15 seconds off the clock so far. Baltimore was far from desperate at this point, needing just to continue playing their game and hopefully starting to score.
Baltimore couldn’t muster much on their next drive though, their shortest yet. Two aggressive pass attempts and a Jackson scramble only netted the Ravens 2 yards before their first punt of the game. Baltimore punted just 40 times during the regular season, an average of 2.5 times per game.
Tannehill attempted a couple more deep shots, both intended for Tajae Sharp, on the Titans next drive. They weren’t catchable passes, but Tannehill stood in the pocket and waited to deliver them. He had already succeeded twice putting the ball where only his receiver could get it, and it appeared that would continue to be a part of the gameplan. The Titans were forced to punt after six plays.
With pressure slowly mounting to make something happen, Jackson connected with Marquise Brown for 30 yards on 3rd down. On another 3rd down, Jackson found Mark Andrews with a side-arm sling. But on the next 3rd down attempt, Willie Snead couldn’t haul in a 3rd-and-12 pass that would’ve been a little short of a first down anyway.
Justin Tucker absolutely crushed a 49-yard field goal to open the scoring for the Ravens and make the score 14-3 with 5:52 left to play in the first half.
On the 2nd play of the Titans next drive, Henry ripped off a 27-yard run after breaking the initial would-be tacklers. He gained extra yardage at the end of the play, stiff-arming a winded Earl Thomas who covered a lot of ground on the previous play to make a tackle.
Tannehill got creative on third down, scrambling and kind of no-look passing to Corey Davis. Tannehill’s pass thread a needle, in danger of being picked off, but when the pass eventually hit Davis’s hands he couldn’t complete the catch.
Baltimore continued to make mental mistakes, as punt returner De’Anthony Thomas was flagged for blocking after calling for a fair catch, turning a touchback into a 15-yard penalty that would start the Ravens at their own 5-yard line.
Deep in their own territory, Jackson threw a pass away to avoid a sack before being taken down for a 6-yard loss by the Titans’ Kamalei Correa.
Yet again, Jackson made magic occur on 3rd-and-16, as 3rd down appeared to be his best passing down of the night. He connected with Seth Roberts for 26 yards to keep the drive alive and give the Ravens a chance at a quick scoring drive.
Jackson hit Brown and Snead with passes before rushing himself for a first down in Titans territory and Tucker’s field goal range. But just as the drive was starting to look good, Jurrell Casey brought Jackson down for an 8-yard sack.
On 2nd-and-18, Jackson floated a deep pass to Marquise Brown, surrounded by three Titans defenders. Somehow, Jackson dropped the rainbow pass right where it needed to be, Brown hauled in the pass with one hand, and maintained possession after being hit. The 38-yard gain was exactly what the Ravens needed to get another score before the end of the first half.
Jackson was pressured but able to throw the ball away on first and goal, and with just 0:03 to play in the half, Baltimore opted for a 22-yard field goal to make the score 14-6. Just a one possession game with a two-point conversion included, the Ravens gave themselves a manageable situation for the second half.
First Half Stats
BAL Lamar Jackson: 12/22, 169 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT (60.6 Rating) (9 rushes, 27 yards)
TEN Ryan Tannehill: 6/10, 79 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT (124.6 Rating) (1 rush, 3 yards)
BAL Mark Ingram: 5 rushes, 15 yards
TEN Derrick Henry: 11 rushes, 56 yards
Ravens: 12 first downs, 216 total yards, 1 turnover
Titans: 8 first downs, 139 total yards, 0 turnovers
Jackson carried the ball forward 9 yards before scrambling and picking up a tough first down on 3rd-and-1 to avoid a short drive. On back-to-back plays, Ingram and Brown had decent gains for the Ravens, but tight end Nick Boyle and Brown himself were shaken up on the plays.
After a holding call that easily could’ve stalled the drive, Lamar Jackson finally got the opening he was looking for, picking up a signature huge gain on a 30-yard scramble.
But four plays later, on 4th-and-inches, Jackson found himself stuffed again as the Ravens turned the ball over on downs for the second time.
This was on the Titans’ 18-yard line. A field goal would’ve cut the score to 14-9 with over 21 minutes left to play, but the Ravens felt they needed to be aggressive and score a touchdown on the drive. I can’t fault the logic, with 4th-and-short usually working out for the Ravens on most days. But again, they were stopped for the second time in such a situation against the Ravens defense.
Jackson was becoming visibly frustrated, and even more so on the Titan ensuing drive. 85 yards from the endzone, the Titans flipped the field quickly with a 66-yard scamper by Henry. On 3rd-and-goal, Tannehill watched from the sideline, Marcus Mariota lined up as a receiver, and Henry took a direct snap.
He started to run before delivering a jump pass (think Tim Tebow in his college days at Florida) to Corey Davis, with Earl Thomas as the closest defender. The unconventional play call paid off, as the Titans got 7 points instead of 3 on the possession.
In a game that featured three Heisman-winning quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Marcus Mariota,) Henry was the first Heisman winner in the game to throw a touchdown.
The Baltimore crowd was stunned, as was Jackson himself. John Harbaugh had the chance to make it a 5-point game with a field goal, but instead, found himself down 21-6, a 10-point swing from what would have happened if he kicked the field goal.
On the very next play, Jackson would be hit by Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey, jarring the ball loose for a fumble recovered by the Titans at the Ravens 20-yard line.
It would take the Titans six plays to find the endzone again, going 3-3 on touchdowns in the red zone and never settling for a field goal. On 3rd-and-goal, Tannehill kept it himself and scampered in for the touchdown. With 4:20 to play in the third quarter, the Titans had taken a 28-6 lead.
Again, just moments before, the Ravens could have cut the score to 14-9 with a short Tucker field goal.
Jackson had the Ravens offense moving on a bit on their next drive, one where Baltimore had to both be desperate while also not panicking. Jackson delivered a couple first down passes to Boykin and Andrews, and got the ball into Titans territory pretty quickly. Then on 3rd-and-5, from the Titans 31-yard line (make-able field goal range for Tucker,) Jackson was picked off by Kenny Vaccaro for his 3rd turnover of the game (5th if you count his two failed fourth down conversions.)
Baltimore stopped the Titans on 3rd down after allowing Henry to rip off a 23-yard run to start the Titans drive. The Ravens would get the ball on their own 12-yard line, down three scores with 14:55 left to play.
Jackson would spark the Ravens next drive as he knew best: getting creative and running the ball. He started the possession with an 11-yard scramble, and later on 3rd-and-2, took an option play 27 yards, making multiple defenders miss with some elusive moves.
Once again, these are the type of plays we expect Jackson to make, just not down 28-6. And as nice as the runs are to sustain the drive, time wasn’t exactly on Baltimore’s side.
After a few gains through the air, Jackson found Hayden Hurst for a 15-yard score, the Ravens first touchdown of the game. The Ravens couldn’t connect on the two-point conversion to make the score 28-12 with 11:04 to play. Technically, a two-possession game if the Ravens could score two touchdowns with two-point conversions while also preventing the Titans from scoring again.
The score would give the Ravens just a sliver of hope, and at least get them on the board with an offensive touchdown. They pinned the Titans deep at their own 17-yard line on the kickoff, but that didn’t matter as Tennessee still had Henry in the backfield.
The Titans plowed ahead, rushing both Henry and Tannehill to keep the ball on the ground and begin eating clock, forcing the Ravens to call their first timeout with 7:22 to play.
The two timeouts Harbaugh used wouldn’t go to waste, for the moment, as the Ravens would force a punt to get the ball back with 6:33 left. At this point, they would need two scores, two 2-point conversions, and likely two onside kicks just to extend the game to overtime.
The Ravens would move the ball down the field, with a 26-yard pass to Snead and 22-yard scramble by Jackson igniting the drive. But on 4th-and-5 at the Titans 16-yard line, with the game on the line, Jackson’s pass attempt to Andrews fell incomplete.
Baltimore would get one more chance, tacking on some garbage yards before failing to convert on 4th-and-11 (their 4th failed attempt of the game.)
For the first time in thirteen games, the Ravens found themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard. Their scoring stall couldn’t have come at a worse time, bouncing them from the playoffs after earning the NFL’s best regular season record.
Jackson falls to 0-2 in the postseason, but will likely be back with this good Ravens team.
TEN Ryan Tannehill: 7/14, 88 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT (109.5 Rating) (6 rushes, 13 yards, TD)
BAL Lamar Jackson: 31/59, 365 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT (63.2 Rating) (20 rushes, 143 yards, fumble lost)
TEN Derrick Henry: 30 rushes, 195 yards, Passing Touchdown
BAL Mark Ingram: 6 rushes, 22 yards
TEN Kalif Raymond: 1 catch, 45 yards, TD
BAL Marquise Brown: 7 catches, 126 yards
BAL Willie Snead IV: 6 catches, 56 yards
- First Downs: TEN 15, BAL 29
- Total Yards: TEN 300, BAL 530
- Rushing Yards: TEN 217, BAL 185
- Passing Yards: TEN 83, BAL 345
- Turnovers: TEN 0, BAL 3 (4 more on downs)
- Time of Possession: TEN 27:54, BAL 32:06
Player of the Game
Obviously, it’s Derrick Henry.
30 rushes and 195 yards on the ground single-handily kept the Titans in control of the game. With a passing touchdown to boot, Henry did a little bit of everything in the Titans upset win. Whether it was turning a stuffed run into four yards, or breaking loose for a 66-yard run, Henry kept the ball in the Titans hands while eating up the clock on long drives.
After their second straight road upset, the Titans will hit the road again in the AFC Championship against either the Kansas City Chiefs or Houston Texans. Tennessee will likely be an underdog yet again, but with two impressive wins under their belt, they have just as good a chance as any of the three remaining teams to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
For the second straight season, Jackson and the Ravens were bounced from the playoffs after a promising regular season. This year looked especially promising, with a 14-2 record, 12 straight wins, and the NFL’s most valuable player in Lamar Jackson. Baltimore held the #1 seed for the first time in franchise history, but couldn’t turn it into a chance to host the AFC Championship.
Jackson and the Ravens will be back, but the 0-2 start to the quarterback’s postseason career will leave an early stain on his legacy. It’s one that could easily be erased with a Super Bowl run, but it will be a chip on Jackson’s shoulder until he can get over the hump.
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