RAVENS vs. TITANS

Ravens looking to deal rivals a titanic blow

At 0-2, Tennessee in danger

`our goal is to knock them out'

October 07, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Tennessee Titans are hungry for a win, the Ravens are salivating over this opportunity to deny them.

One of the NFL's fiercest rivalries is renewed today at PSINet Stadium, and the Ravens have their sights set on extending their reign of misery over their surprisingly winless AFC Central nemesis.

A victory by the Ravens (2-1) would place the Titans (0-2) - the preseason favorite to unseat the defending Super Bowl champions - on the brink of playoff extinction in just the first week of October. Since the NFL expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, only three teams have overcome an 0-3 start to reach the playoffs.

"Our goal is to knock them out," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "We get an opportunity to do that early on. It's not to say that they can't overcome and get on a hot streak. But we like our chances sitting them down at 0-3. We know what they represent, and we want to knock them down a peg.

"The less competition you have down the stretch, the better off you'll be. I'd like to win the gold medal with just me running by myself."

Told of Sharpe's comments, Titans running back Eddie George didn't disagree.

"It might be accurate saying that [that the Ravens can knock out Tennessee]," George said. "I mean, look at the situation. If they do win, we're 0-3. We'd have a tough road to climb back. But I don't think anybody on this team believes that we're knocked out even if we do lose this game."

Tormenting the Titans has become sort of a hobby recently for the Ravens.

Last season, the Ravens became the first visiting team to win at Tennessee's Adelphia Coliseum, ending a league record of 12 regular-season wins to open a new stadium. In the playoffs, the Ravens shocked the top-seeded Titans, 24-10, with two blocked field goals and a deflected pass that turned into a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

But sitting at 0-2, Tennessee is seeking survival, not revenge. That makes the Titans more dangerous than ever.

"When a team is down, it's kind of like when you shoot a bear and only hit him in the leg," Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "You don't know if you want to go back out in the woods right now."

This divisional clash will play out with both teams at full strength, if not at full health. Ray Lewis and Titans quarterback Steve McNair are both listed as questionable, but each should be in command of his team today.

Lewis missed practice on Wednesday with a virus and then sat out Thursday's session with elbow tendinitis.

When asked if he would play after practicing Friday, Lewis said, "Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

Lewis refuses to miss out on his one-on-one duel with George, a close friend for the past six years. In his past five meetings with the Titans, Lewis has averaged 12 tackles while leading the charge in stopping George.

"It's going to make people rush home from church, look at the TV and say, `This is what I'm home on Sundays for, Eddie and Ray are going to go at it,' " Lewis said.

The fight has been missing from George lately. In his past five games against the Ravens, he has averaged only 2.8 yards per carry, with no run over 14 yards.

Lewis' method of operation is trying to finish off George in the first half with some pulverizing hits.

"To get a hundred yards against those guys, you're going to have to run for a hundred yards," George said. "You're not going to get any cheap ones in there, have a long gain here and there. You're going to have to pound it out and run with purpose.

"They try to put you out of commission, so to speak. They come hard."

McNair's injured right shoulder was helped by Tennessee's bye week. He was limited in the season opener against Miami and sat out the game at Jacksonville.

But even with McNair, the Ravens don't expect to be chasing him around as in years past.

"With McNair's injury situation, we'll prepare for it and we've seen it a million times, but I don't imagine they're going to expose him to a lot of quarterback draws or sweeps," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The only change for the Ravens is at receiver, where Travis Taylor has taken over the starting flanker job. The second-year receiver caught four passes for a career-high 90 yards and the winning touchdown last week in Denver.

Taylor's performance was just as thrilling as his arrival that day.

After missing the last team bus from the hotel to Mile High, he took a cab that mistakenly dropped him off at Coors Field, Denver's baseball stadium. But stadium workers there bailed out Taylor by rushing him on motorcycle over to the football stadium.

"That's the way he needs to go now," Billick later joked. "I'm not above superstition."

The Ravens aren't above elimination, too, especially when it comes at the Titans' expense.

"We've kind of somewhat supplanted them as the team in the Central [Division]," Sharpe said. "Now, they're trying to come back. We're not ready to give up that throne just yet."

Ravens today

Opponent: Tennessee Titans

Site: PSINet Stadium

Time: 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3 1/2

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