On fence over best

Titans: The yardage leaders are a proud but quiet lot, letting their solid hits, not mouths, make noise.

Ravens Vs. Titans

Afc Divisional Playoff

January 04, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There is a reason, according to Tennessee Titans linebacker Eddie Robinson, the league's No. 1 defense (Tennessee) gets overlooked by the No. 2 defense (the Ravens).

"They have a couple more high-profile-type players," Robinson said. "We have a couple more just lunchbox-type guys you may not have heard of. But I think both defenses are extremely good and play at a high level."

No one can dispute the latter part of his statement. Tennessee allowed a league-low 238.4 yards a game, while the Ravens allowed just 10 more.

But one could argue the Titans not having their share of high-profile players. Three defensive starters are going to the Pro Bowl in end Jevon Kearse, cornerback Samari Rolle and safety Blaine Bishop, the same number as the Ravens (Sam Adams, Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson).

Still, Robinson claims the Titans have no superstars. Rolle agreed at first, then conceded they have one. "Jevon Kearse," he said. "That's it."

And with that, Tennessee embraces its low-key approach, which will be in full effect this week. The defense, at the request of coach Jeff Fisher, is shying away from any inflammatory remarks leading up to Sunday's game. Ravens coach Brian Billick has put no such muzzle on his team.

"That's the Ravens' style and this is our style," Bishop said. "They can do a lot of talking, if that is the way they go about it. But we just go about it in a business manner.

"We're just an aggressive defense. It is a fun defense to watch. It is hit or miss. We're going to blitz everybody, and if we don't get there, they are going to throw it up. We have to have some great cover corners, that hopefully make a lot of plays."

Rolle did this season, tying Miami's Brian Walker for the AFC lead in interceptions (seven). Rolle is part of a defense that, if not for the Ravens, might have been viewed as one of the best.

The Titans recorded 55 sacks, best in the AFC. Thirteen players had at least two sacks this season, with Kearse's 11.5 leading the way.

Tennessee allowed 191 points, third on the all-time list for a 16-game season. The Titans finished just four points behind the 1986 Chicago Bears. It was a stat lost in the fact that the Ravens broke the Bears' mark this season with 165 points allowed.

"We don't sweat that," linebacker Randall Godfrey said. "We ain't had credit all year, and we're not trying to get it now. We're going to keep on doing what we are doing, and that is playing good defense."

The Titans have not allowed a touchdown in three games (while outscoring their opponents 90-3). Granted, this came against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas, teams that combined to win 12 games.

Still, Tennessee held another professional football team, the Cowboys, to 95 total yards and zero points in its Monday night season finale. It was the lowest yardage total the Titans' defense allowed this season, one in which they finished first against the pass and third against the run.

The Titans also have forced teams to go three-and-out on their first possession 13 of 16 times. They allowed one rusher (Jacksonville's Fred Taylor) to gain 100 yards.

"There are no slouches in the NFL," cornerback Denard Walker said. "For people to say that you are one of the best, it really feels good."

The Titans were ranked in the Top 5 in total defense for much of the season, but did not become No. 1 until the final week when they unseated the Ravens.

Tennessee can thank the dominating performance against a Dallas team quarterbacked by third-stringer Anthony Wright as the reason for the leapfrog.

"It is not so much over the Ravens as it is just a matter of finishing statistically No. 1," Robinson said. "It is a big thing. I've been playing nine years and never done that before. A lot of teams haven't done that. But this team realizes our goal is to get to the Super Bowl. Whether we were one or 31, if we get to the Super Bowl and win it, that is really what the team should be measured on."

Said Bishop: "At this level, and how much talent is on offense, [finishing first] is saying a lot. We just go out there and play hard.

"We take pride in it. Once we felt like toward the end when we had a shot, we wanted to show everybody that we had the best defense in the league."

Comparing the defenses

How the Ravens and Titans defenses stack up:

Titans Ravens

Points allowed 191 165

Shutouts 2 4

TDs allowed 20 18

TDs rushing 7 5

TDs passing 10 11

First downs 215 216

Yds. rush./game 86.9 60.6

Yards per rush 3.6 2.7

Yds. pass./game 151.5 187.3

Pct. completed 51.9 55.9

Total yards 238.4 247.9

Yds. per play 4.2 4.3

Sacks 55 35

Interceptions 17 23

Fumbles rec. 13 26

3rd-down pct. 30.8 34.1

Red zone TD pct. 46.7 29.6

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