Ravens crush heart of Titans turnaround

Ravens 26, Titans 7

October 08, 2001|By Mike Preston

THE RAVENS HAVE stolen the Tennessee Titans' hearts.

Tennessee doesn't want any piece of the Ravens anytime soon. Not in the next five weeks until the two teams are scheduled to meet again on Monday Night Football. Oh, the Titans might go on a roll and still make the playoffs, but they don't want to see the Ravens again. They can't win the key matchups.

Despite the Titans having two weeks to prepare and the incentive of having lost twice to the Ravens at home last season, the second time in the playoffs, the Ravens again sucked the life out of Tennessee yesterday in a 26-7 victory at PSINet Stadium.

This is the second straight week the Ravens have abused one of the best teams in the AFC. Last week, it was the Denver Broncos who took a butt-whipping.

What do the Titans and Broncos have in common?

They both prepared their teams in the off-season to beat the Ravens.

Maybe they'd better go back to the chalkboards.

Ever since the Ravens defeated Tennessee in the divisional playoff, the Titans, believe it or not, have talked much more than the Ravens. At the beginning of the season, they proclaimed the road to the Super Bowl had to go through Tennessee.

They said the Ravens were loudmouths and classless. They suggested that running back Terry Allen join the AARP. ESPN reported during the week that after practice Titans coach Jeff Fisher told his players that he didn't care if they went 0-3, just come out hitting with a 2-by-4.

A seething Ravens coach Brian Billick told his team about the comments during a pre-game meeting, and the Ravens proceeded to beat Tennessee with their own ugly stick. The Titans had only 185 yards of total offense. They had only nine first downs. They were just two of 14 on third-down conversions, and if it wasn't for a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown, they would have been shut out.

Now they are just shut up.

"It was supposed to be two heavyweights," Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Well, one heavyweight showed up. They did all the talking, we got a 40-year-old back that came off the street last week and rushed for 100 yards. It's just funny how you listen to, especially the media in Tennessee, and how Jeff Fisher talks about how classless we are. But I like being classless and winning. Those classy losers, oh, they drive me crazy."

Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams said: "That little stick didn't do anything but tick us off. They act like we stole something from them last year. The way I look at it is we went into their house and took what we wanted twice."

The Ravens own Tennessee because they have taken the Titans' best punch, running back Eddie George, and turned it into a light jab. Before yesterday's game, George was averaging only 2.8 yards per carry in the past five games against Baltimore.

Yesterday, he finished with 26 yards on 13 carries before leaving with a sprained ankle on the last play of the third period after a tackle by Rod Woodson. That's nothing new. He always turns it in early against the Ravens. Actually, he quit about three minutes earlier. While running off right tackle, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, already engaged with a blocker on his left side and down on one knee, tackled George with virtually one arm and one leg.

That shouldn't happen to a player of George's caliber who prides himself on wearing down defenses. But he can't wear down the Ravens' because his guards are too busy getting beat up by defensive tackles Tony Siragusa and Adams. They penetrate and maintain gap control. There is no room to run.

But George is not the only Titan who fears the Ravens. Look into quarterback Steve McNair's eyes. He sees No. 52 at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in his sleep.

He hasn't been the same since Lewis pile-drived him into the turf last season in the playoffs, injuring his shoulder. Let's roll the game film again from yesterday. Facing a third-and-five from the Titans' 41 on their first series of the game, McNair rolled right out of the pocket and gained 4 yards. But if he had kept his head down and plowed straight ahead like in previous years, he would have had a first down.

Instead, he tried to beat cornerback Duane Starks around the corner. Starks won easily. The Titans can't find a way to control Lewis. Before the Ravens became a great defense last season, McNair would often beat them out of the pocket. Now he is afraid to leave it.

"What they try to do is run the football, and we make them one-dimensional," Sharpe said. "It's obvious that Marvin Lewis [Ravens defensive coordinator] doesn't believe Steve McNair can beat them throwing the ball anymore. Our job offensively is still not to mess things up. We're still very conscientious with the football, but we'll take our shots downfield."

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