This year's model runs Titans off playoff road

Tenn. likens Ravens' upset of division champ to its defeat of Jags in Super roll

January 08, 2001|By Bob McClellan | Bob McClellan,SPECIAL TO SUN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The scenario should have been familiar to the Tennessee Titans: AFC Central team goes on the road in the playoffs to play favored division champ.

After all, the Titans starred in the role last season, defeating Jacksonville in the AFC championship game. It was their third victory over the Jaguars, and they talked enough trash along the way to keep Hefty in business for years.

Tennessee may want to sue coach Brian Billick and the Ravens for copyright infringement. Using last year's Titans as a model, the Ravens swaggered into Adelphia Coliseum and defeated their division rival, 24-10. It was Tennessee's second loss ever at Adelphia, the first coming Nov. 12 to Baltimore.

"It's forgotten that they [the Titans] had to fight their way up there last year," Billick said. "Go back and check your records of the way they approached being the underdog, going on the road, going into Jacksonville, and you will see a lot of the same things.

"Our guys are respectful of them. They really are."

It was difficult to discern the respect last week. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister told Sports Illustrated that running back Eddie George "had folded like a baby" in the teams' last meeting. Wide receiver Patrick Johnson said the Titans "were all hype." Defensive end Rob Burnett, when asked about George, said that when the Ravens' defense was on its game, "Jim Brown couldn't get 100 yards."

"I don't know what made them this week decide to come up with all this trash talk," Titans defensive end Kenny Holmes said. "I think they were trying to get themselves some courage to come out here and play us. But they did an excellent job. I can't take anything away from those guys."

The Titans wish they could have shoved the trash talk back down the Ravens' throats.

While Tennessee dominated statistically (317 total yards to 134; 23 first downs to six), the scoreboard belied a harsh reality. The defending AFC champions are out of the playoffs.

"I feel more disbelief than anything," Titans offensive tackle Brad Hopkins said. "There's a matter of confidence and character about this team that knew we were going to be in Tampa [site of the Super Bowl]. And when your plans kind of abruptly end like that, it's difficult to swallow."

The Titans' locker room was full of dry mouths.

"You go out and bust your butt all year, you have the best record in the NFL, you go and you have a bye week and home field, and you let one slip by," said Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, who finished with five receptions for 31 yards. "It hurts. It's just a rotten feeling in your gut. The best thing you can do is tip your hat to the Ravens because they were the better team today, and start on next year."

Starting on next year won't be so easy for the Titans. Yesterday's loss clearly stunned them.

"I just kept seeing us last year," defensive tackle John Thornton said. "Things were going right for them. The same thing happened to us last year. I saw them celebrating, and I remember how it felt for us to celebrate like that last year."

Even though Jevon Kearse said the Ravens "lucked up" and that "pound-for-pound, I do think we're the better team," most players on both teams said the trash had been taken from the curb and there was a mutual respect. It was a point Jaguars running back Fred Taylor couldn't reach last year. Even after his team's third loss to the Titans, he proclaimed Jacksonville the better team.

"There's no Fred Taylors in this locker room," Hopkins said. "We're not going to go down in flames saying we're still the better team. They won today. And I wish them well."

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