No banshee speech, but plenty of familiar refrains in latest playoff win

RAVENS INSIDER

January 11, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

NASHVILLE, TENN. - As soon as the game ended, the phone call was made to the travel agent to book the Super Bowl reservations in Tampa. Oh, the Ravens are going to the Big Show.

There is still one game remaining, the AFC championship game, but that's no problem. You see, the Ravens are living right. Even when they are outplayed, they win. They are lucky, and at this point in the season, it's better to be lucky than it is to be good.

The Ravens played most of the second half of yesterday's game without their best pass rusher, Terrell Suggs, and top cornerback, Samari Rolle, and they still won. The Tennessee Titans had almost twice as many yards and double the scoring opportunities, and the Ravens still won.

You've got to believe now. You've got to believe when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws up what is really a Hail Mary pass to Mark Clayton, and two Titans defensive players who are in excellent position fall down, and Clayton makes a 37-yard reception down to the Titans' 4.

You've got to believe when Ravens tight end Todd Heap seems to make a catch, fumbles and the Titans recover, but the play is nullified because it is ruled an incomplete pass.

There were just a lot of crazy things that happened, such as Titans running back LenDale White fumbling at the Ravens' 17 late in the first half and tight end Alge Crumpler fumbling at the Ravens' 6 near the midway point of the fourth quarter.

Did Flacco get that 23-yard pass to Heap off on the last drive on time, or did the referees just forget to check the clock? And how about the Titans coming up inches short on their next-to-last possession on the last third-down play or Rob Bironas missing that 51-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter with the wind at his back?

Can you say Al Del Greco?

We've all been here before, right in this stadium in January 2001 when the Ravens were en route to winning the Super Bowl. Back then, the Titans were also favored to win. The only thing missing this time was the Brian Billick post-game banshee speech.

But when strange things happen like yesterday, teams don't lose. When a team gift-wraps you three turnovers at home, everything will go your way. We've seen this act before. Book the Super Bowl tickets.

Turning point

The turning point of the game occurred late in the first half when Titans running back Chris Johnson suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire second half.

Johnson had slashed through the Ravens, rushing for 72 yards on 11 carries.

Throw in the towel

Titans fans sold out LP Field, but they could at least be a bit more original. They did the old wave-the-towel bit, and the only difference was that their towels were blue.

Where have we seen the towel act before?

But at least the mascot during the pre-game introductions was funny, especially when he did the Ray-Ray dance.

Huh?

What was Titans coach Jeff Fisher thinking at the beginning of the second quarter when he decided to go for it on a fourth-and-eight at the Ravens' 30?

If the wind was too strong, he just should have punted, pinning the Ravens deep inside their territory. At that point, the Ravens weren't moving the ball. In fact, they had only 94 yards of total offense in the first half compared with 256 for Tennessee, and 48 of the Ravens' came on Flacco's touchdown pass to Derrick Mason.

Good sign

The Ravens were fortunate to manage a 7-7 tie at the half.

Not only were they outplayed, but they also lost several starters for considerable time because of injuries to players such as Suggs, offensive tackle Willie Anderson and running back Le'Ron McClain. Suggs hurt his shoulder running down Titans quarterback Kerry Collins. It was a strange injury for a strange dude.

Poor tackling

The Ravens improved in the second half, but their tackling was atrocious in the first two quarters. Where do we start?

Start with outside linebacker Bart Scott and then move on to Rolle. The worst offender might be cornerback Fabian Washington, who spent more time face-first in the dirt than wrapping up tackles.

Line 'em up

Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and his counterpart, Tennessee's Jim Schwartz, must have shared game plans last week.

It was apparent early what both teams wanted to do defensively. They both crowded the line of scrimmage with seven or eight players on first and second downs, and tried to force both quarterbacks to win the games for the respective teams.

Hurting themselves

The Titans self-destructed with turnovers, but also with 12 penalties for 89 yards. Fisher said the long layoff had nothing to do with his team's performance, but Tennessee had some timing problems.

The Titans also had trouble controlling their tempers because they had several unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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