Published 11:27 PM EST Jan 11, 2020
BALTIMORE — Just like we all expected, right?
In a stunning and brilliant performance, the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans crushed the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on the road Saturday night, winning 28–12 to advance to their first AFC Championship Game since the 2002 season.
It was an absolutely clinical performance by Tennessee, which only just squeaked into the postseason but has found new life with ex-Dolphin Ryan Tannehill under center. Tannehill threw for a pair of touchdowns, Derrick Henry did Derrick Henry things (more on him later) and the Titans’ defense made Lamar Jackson look mortal.
Baltimore, meanwhile, watched its franchise-best 14-2 season crumble, leaving some fans in shocked silence and others trudging toward the exit by the start of the fourth quarter.
Here are three things we learned from Saturday’s game:
1. Derrick Henry does it all. Henry hasn’t exactly flown under the radar since he’s been in the NFL, but his first two years were just fine. His third year was better. But this year, Henry blossomed into a full-blown star — and that continued Saturday night. The NFL’s regular-season rushing leader was good for bruising 4-yard runs all night, and in the third quarter, he started to take over. He sliced through the Ravens defense for a 66-yard gain, kept from the end zone only by a charging Marcus Peters. So instead, Henry finished off the drive with a jump pass to Corey Davis out of the Wildcat to put the Titans up 21-6. All told, he finished with 30 carries for 195 yards.
2. Rusty Ravens? It’s a pretty tired take, but in this case, there might be some merit to it: The Ravens looked rusty. They effectively had three weeks off between meaningful games, and even the last game that had ramifications (at Cleveland) wasn’t do-or-die. And it showed. It wasn’t just the early turnover, a tipped pass that led to a Titans interception, nor an uncharacteristic inability to move the ball. It was the dropped passes. The pointless penalties on special teams, including one that left Baltimore pinned on its own 5-yard line. The lack of push on a fourth-and-1 near midfield. Maybe the Ravens would’ve been flat regardless, but it’s fair to wonder if they were a victim of their own regular-season success in some ways.
3. Don’t discount the hot hand. We see this kind of thing often: A team scrapes into the playoffs, builds confidence and becomes an unexpected juggernaut. Is Tennessee up next? No wild-card team has reached the Super Bowl since the 2012 season, but the Titans have been playing meaningful football for a month now. They’ve knocked off the AFC’s longest-running dynasty (New England) and this year’s No. 1 seed (Baltimore). They’re playing with house money. Presumably, they’ll be underdogs again next week on the road against either Houston or Kansas City — but if history has taught us anything, don’t count them out.
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Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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