Dilfer & Co. exception to rule of proud unit

Ravens' success in air against rivals unequaled

Ravens' pass offense vs. Titans' pass defense


January 05, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The rankings tell one story, but history reveals another.

The Tennessee Titans have the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, and the Ravens have the league's 22nd-ranked pass offense. But the Ravens have had the most success throwing the ball against the Titans, passing for 290 and 281 yards - the two highest totals allowed by Tennessee this season.

In five quarters against the Titans, Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer was 30-for-49 passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

The biggest fourth-quarter comeback of Dilfer's seven-year career came Nov. 12 when he engineered a nine-play, 70-yard, game-winning drive. He hit tight end Shannon Sharpe for 36 yards to convert a third-down play and then connected with receiver Patrick Johnson for the 2-yard touchdown pass.

The Ravens match up against the Titans' high-risk, high-reward philosophy.

Tennessee can stack eight players close to the line of scrimmage because of its faith in cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Denard Walker. An All-Pro, Rolle set a career high with seven interceptions this season.

The Ravens have gone to their receivers for the big plays, with Johnson's game-winning grab along with Qadry Ismail's 46-yard touchdown reception.

But they have moved the ball against the Titans by working the intermediate game. Sharpe has been the primary beneficiary, making 16 receptions for 196 yards.

Tennessee, though, has forced some mistakes.

The Titans have had five interceptions against the Ravens, including two that were run back for a touchdowns at critical times.

Middle linebacker Randall Godfrey's 24-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first meeting closed out a 14-6 win. And Perry Phenix's 87-yarder put the Titans ahead 23-17 late in the fourth quarter in the teams' last game.

Tennessee has applied pressure, as well, racking up 10 sacks. Defensive end Jevon Kearse has had four of his 11 1/2 sacks against the Ravens.

Still, the Ravens have held the edge in this matchup.

So although the Ravens have watched their "vertical" game evaporate the past three weeks, there's an unusual trend that favors its return Sunday.

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