Fisher: Saturday's game only one that matters now

Nfl Playoffs Titans

January 06, 2009|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,bill.ordine@baltsun.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Once divisional rivals, the Ravens and Tennessee Titans have played some of the most brutal and meaningful games in their respective histories against each other.

The most memorable was in the playoffs after the 2000 regular season when the No. 1-seeded Titans were a steppingstone for the visiting Ravens on Baltimore's run to a Super Bowl victory. That situation will be mirrored Saturday when the wild-card Ravens make another playoff trip to LP Field for a divisional-round playoff game against top-seeded Tennessee.

However, as colorful as the legacy between the two teams might be, none of it means a thing when the old archenemies collide in four days, said Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, who has been on the sideline for all 18 games between the franchises, split at nine wins apiece.

"That's when we were playing them twice a year and battling through the playoffs," Fisher said, referring to reminders of the blood feud. "These are two completely different teams. Obviously, both teams have a lot to lose. This is sudden death, and both teams are hoping to go out and play as best they can and move on."

One thing that has not changed, though, is that the two teams still play a similar brand of football, relying on stout defenses and punishing running games.

When the Titans played in Baltimore in October and escaped with a 13-10 win, it was the Ravens who had the statistical upper hand in the defense and running game categories as Tennessee was held to 47 yards and 54 offensive snaps. But with six minutes remaining, Titans quarterback Kerry Collins discovered his short-passing game and drove his team 90 yards for the deciding touchdown.

"They were all about ball control and a real physical defense," Fisher said. "They forced some issues with us, we made some mistakes and didn't play particularly well. ... But we found a way to win the game, and that's the most important thing."

What Fisher saw Sunday when the Ravens beat the Dolphins, 27-9, and the Ravens' defense produced five turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble recovery), only proves the Ravens have improved.

"Miami never really could get started," Fisher said. "Baltimore's defense needs to take credit for that. ... They forced the issue, they kept constant pressure on [ Chad [Pennington, the Dolphins' quarterback], they took advantage. I know they were a little frustrated in that they couldn't turn the turnovers and the sudden change into immediate points, but they did a great job with the scheme and the game plan on the road."

But while the Ravens of 2008 certainly resemble the defensively dominating Ravens of eight seasons ago, Fisher dismissed the ghosts of playoffs past - especially the Ravens' 24-10 win eight Januaries ago.

"A playoff loss is a playoff loss, and that was a disappointing loss and I said at the time that I thought the 2000 team was better than the '99 team" that went to the Super Bowl, Fisher said. "They made the plays and we didn't and they won the game and moved on. But again - no impact, no bearing, no effect on this Saturday's game."

Notes: : Fisher said he expected two star defensive linemen who have been injured to practice this week. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed the final two games with a knee injury and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch missed the final three with a groin injury. Fisher was less sure about the practice prospects of veteran center Kevin Mawae (elbow).

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