Titans' defense finds new spark

Energized front seven shuts down Ravens' running game

Titans 25, Ravens 10

Ravens Gameday

September 19, 2005|By Bob McClellan | Bob McClellan,Special to the Sun

NASHVILLE, TENN. -- Forgive the Ravens if they believed coming into yesterday's game that they could run all over the Tennessee Titans' defense.

After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers had made it look rather easy last week. Third-string running back Willie Parker, a guy who barely even started in college, rambled for 161 yards on 22 carries as Pittsburgh crushed Tennessee, 34-7.

But nothing came easy for the Ravens, who lost, 25-10, before a sellout crowd at The Coliseum. They finished with 13 carries for 14 yards, the worst rushing performance in franchise history.

The Titans were determined to contain Jamal Lewis, and they stacked the line, maintained the gaps and flew to the ball like owls after field mice. Lewis had 10 carries for 9 yards. Chester Taylor added 5 yards on three carries.

"They played well as a whole," Lewis said. "Just watching them on film from last week, they looked like a totally different defense."

Pauly Shore would have been embarrassed to be seen in that film. There was Parker gliding through gaping holes, the Titans missing tackles as though the game were two-hand touch.

"We saw how we couldn't play anymore and we brought more energy and excitement," said Titans linebacker Peter Sirmon, who was credited with one of his team's six sacks.

The Ravens' offensive line was stuffed at the point of attack by Titans 320-pound defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, and it didn't hold up well in pass-blocking either.

"Our whole defensive line was disruptive," said Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, who thus was allowed to roam free and post a team-high eight tackles, including one sack. "The whole line should get a game ball."

Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch had three sacks, and second-year defensive linemen Randy Starks (Maryland) and Travis LaBoy combined on another sack.

To a man, the Titans' defenders said they had no explanation for how they had played in Pittsburgh other than they had come out flat and without emotion. This time they found some heart and some fire.

"Whenever we made a play we were screaming and yelling, slapping helmets, and everybody started flying to the ball," said Titans linebacker Brad Kassell, who had seven tackles and returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown that made it 23-3 with 11:53 to play.

Haynesworth left in the final minute of the third quarter with a sprained knee. He finished with four tackles and knocked down a pass.

"Hopefully you saw the real Titans out there today," he said. "It felt good to dominate a good offense like we did. I'm hoping we can carry this over to the next week.

"How we played with emotion and intensity," he added, "is what we're really capable of."

As for what the Ravens' running game is really capable of, there's always next game.

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