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Front Page - Friday, January 15, 2021

Another Ravens loss will ‘sting’ for long time

Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson races through the Titans defense en route to a 48-yard touchdown run during the second quarter of Sunday’s 20-13 Ravens win. The Titans had no answer for Jackson, who amassed 315 total yards. - Photo by Aaron Doster | AP

For those who have followed the Titans in their 20-plus years in Nashville now, you know what a thorn the Baltimore Ravens have been for this franchise.

Not that the Titans haven’t done their share of agitating and frustrating the Ravens – how quickly we forget last season’s monumental upset in Baltimore – but there is something about this rivalry that is confounding and hateful, and yet Titans fans wind up tipping their hats with the utmost respect when it’s over and things didn’t go their way.

The Ravens seem to bring out the worst in the Titans at the worst possible times whenever they come to Nashville.

And now, for the third time in as many playoff games against Baltimore in Music City, the Titans could do little but admit, “The Ravens were the better team today.”

“We lost. We didn’t get it done. We didn’t get it done when it mattered,” wide receiver A.J. Brown said. “They were making plays. They had some real key stops when it really mattered. Like I said, key stops on third downs when we needed to convert, and we didn’t.

“They came out, and the momentum switched. I don’t even know if they were doing something so special. We kind of shot our own selves in the foot not converting and doing what we were supposed to do.”

The same words could just as easily have come from Eddie George in 2000 or Kerry Collins in 2008.

Whatever it is, the Ravens are the unwanted house guest that keep making themselves at home on the playing field at Nissan Stadium – whether it’s Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or even former Titans turned Ravens like Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle.

It appeared everything was going the Titans’ way when they were up 10-0 early. Yes, the Ravens were selling out to stop Derrick Henry – resulting in a season-low 40 yards rushing – but Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown were making Baltimore’s defense pay with three hookups on the first scoring drive, good for 52 yards and the touchdown catch.

Meanwhile, the much-maligned Titans defense was stopping Lamar Jackson in his tracks and making him throw a rainbow interception that Malcolm Butler could have fair caught.

We should have known from past experience the Ravens had the Titans right where they wanted them. For the remaining three-plus quarters, the Ravens played their game and the Titans never regained their groove.

“We just never really got into that rhythm after those first couple drives, and obviously that’s the result,” tackle Dennis Kelly said.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

In 2000, the Titans drove right down the field with George’s rushing with a textbook drive for a touchdown to open the game against Baltimore. A blocked field goal return and a Lewis interception return, both for scores in the second half, and the Ravens walked out of Nashville with a 24-10 stunner on their way to a Super Bowl title.

Eight years later, the Titans were again the top seed and scored first when the Ravens came calling. But Baltimore persevered, taking advantage of fumbles from LenDale White and Alge Crumpler on their way to derailing yet another Titans’ season, 13-10.

Matt Stover’s field goal with less than a minute left decided that one.

That game from the 2008 playoffs, was the last time Nashville had hosted a playoff game before Sunday.

And though only a handful of front office people in the Titans organization are still with the club, the result came up the same.

Near the end, the Ravens danced at midfield on the Titans’ logo and will keep dancing for another round of the postseason, while the Titans get to spend the offseason figuring out how a franchise best offense was shut down when it mattered most.

“This definitely is going to sting,” Henry said. “Probably be in my mind for the rest of this year until we suit back up.”

And truth be known, probably a lot longer than that. Just ask the Titans of 2000 and their counterparts from 2008.