Here’s a list no team wants to wind up on:
Those are the teams that finished 14-2 or better in the regular season, then went one-and-done in the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens were put on that list for the rest of time with their loss on Saturday night.
The Tennessee Titans pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history, stunning the Ravens 28-12. The Ravens become one of six teams with 14 or more wins in the regular season to not advance beyond the divisional round. The Titans move on to the AFC championship game next week, where they’ll face on the road either the Kansas City Chiefs or Houston Texans.
It wasn’t just that the Ravens and their likely MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson lost, though that was entirely unexpected. It’s that the Titans made it look easy.
One of the biggest upsets in playoff history
Think of the most memorable upsets in the divisional round in NFL history.
There was the Jacksonville Jaguars shocking the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. The 15-1 Green Bay Packers losing to the New York Giants. Minnesota Vikings receiver Anthony Carter going crazy against the San Francisco 49ers. Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite Jerome Bettis’ late fumble.
There’s also Mark Sanchez and the Jets over the Patriots, the Chargers stunning the Colts despite losing Philip Rivers early in the game and Jake Delhomme’s turnover party in the Panthers’ loss to the Cardinals. You remember those games. And you’ll remember the Titans absolutely steamrolling Jackson and the Ravens.
Most of the games on that list shared this: Early on, it was clear something was brewing. The Titans jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead. Jackson seemed frustrated. He flung down safety Kevin Byard out of bounds after an interception and got a personal foul penalty. He got in a yelling match with Titans rookie defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. He slammed down his helmet on the bench after one of many unsuccessful drives. In the second quarter, when Ravens receiver Seth Roberts had what likely would have been a long touchdown in his arms and he dropped it, the upset vibes were overwhelming. Nothing seemed normal for the Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Titans kept rolling. The Ravens were 8-of-8 on fourth-and-1 during the regular season, and 0-of-2 against the Titans. Derrick Henry ran wild again, with 195 yards on 30 carries. Ravens safety Earl Thomas talked about how the Patriots didn’t want to tackle Henry, then looked foolish as Henry spun him around with a couple stiff-arms on a long run. Ryan Tannehill, quiet in a win over the New England Patriots last week, made some key throws though the Titans didn’t need him to pass much. And Henry came through with the play we’ll remember, a jump pass for a touchdown to Corey Davis.
Of all the possible outcomes on divisional playoff weekend, the Titans going to Baltimore and getting a blowout win might have been the most unlikely. This was a true stunner.
Titans score impressive win
The Ravens were not a fluke. They won their final 12 games of the season, and rarely trailed in any of them. Advanced stats, traditional stats, the eye test — they all indicated the Ravens were a juggernaut.
But the Titans are on a roll. They beat the Patriots in Foxborough, leading to speculation that New England’s dynasty might finally be over. Then they knocked off one of the best regular-season teams we have seen in a long, long time, and did it with ease.
The Titans defense has been tremendous. That group shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots, but it seemed Jackson and the Ravens would be a much bigger challenge. Baltimore didn’t get in the end zone until 11:04 remained in the game, after Tennessee took a 28-6 lead. The Titans allowed just one touchdown over the first seven quarters of the playoffs. They forced Jackson into mistakes, though Jackson’s receivers had several costly drops.
Tennessee’s offense has been good since Tannehill took over as starter, and that continued on Saturday night. Henry has been the MVP of the playoffs so far. He has the most rushing yards through his first four postseason games in NFL history, and is one of five players with 150 or more rushing yards in consecutive playoffs games. Tannehill threw for less than 100 yards — the Titans are the first team since 1974 to win two playoff games in the same postseason with less than 100 yards passing, CBS said — but a 45-yard dart to Kalif Raymond that gave the Titans a 14-0 lead was a key to the game. And unlike Jackson, Tannehill got help from his receivers. Jonnu Smith’s great catch in the end zone gave the Titans a 7-0 lead and set the tone. The Titans don’t seem like a fluke either.
The Titans are one of the most unlikely stories of this season’s playoffs. For much different reasons, so are the Ravens.
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