Lamar Jackson’s magical run this season came crashing down, as the Tennessee Titans continued to shock the world, going into Baltimore and shocking the #1 seed in AFC, 28-12. They were simply not afraid of anyone and have the formula to win in anyone’s building at anytime: a superior running game and punishing defense.

Titans’ Gameplan

The Titans started by taking advantage of an uncharacteristic start by the Ravens offense and defense. Following a Tennessee punt to start the game, the Ravens took over and gained 44 yards but then TE Mark Andrews saw the ball deflected off his hands. Safety Kevin Byrd picked it off and ran it 31 yards to give the ball back to Ryan Tannehill. They got 15 extra yards add on to the end of the play on a late hit by Lamar Jackson on Byrd. 8 plays later, TE Jonnu Smith made a tremendous leaping catch in the right corner of the end zone for a 12 yard score.

Communication Trouble for Baltimore

The Ravens then failed to convert a 4th and 1 on their next drive, as Mike Vrabel’s defense stuffed Lamar Jackson’s QB sneak and they took over at the Baltimore 45 yard line. Tannehill didn’t take long to answer finding WR Kalif Raymound running wide open down field for a 45 yard strike to give them a 14-0 lead. He blew by star corner Marlon Humphries and made a leaping catch in the endzone to send a deafening silence through the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. 

The Ravens continued to be out of sink and were only held to two Justin Tucker field goals, including one to end the half. The Ravens running attack was held to 61 yards in the first half and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown led all receivers with 3 catches for 84 yards. He had the biggest play of the half with 38 yard pass to set the Titans up at the 4 yard line. Unfortunately, Jackson couldn’t reach the end zone and was lucky not to get sacked, scrambling away from the pressure and firing the ball into the stands. 

Ingram Injury

Tucker’s second field goal cut the deficit to 8 and the Ravens needed to regroup quickly. The two biggest issues that needed to be fixed were hanging on to the ball and protect Jackson better, as he was sacked twice in key situations. The Ravens also lost RB Mark Ingram (calf) and TE Mark Andrews to injury in the first half. Those injuries are huge considering they are the two best offensive weapons outside of Lamar Jackson on their offense.

The Titans offense meanwhile saw Ryan Tannehill connect on big plays, completing only 6 of 10 passes for 79 yards and 2 scores. More importantly he didn’t turn the ball over and took advantage of terrible coverage on his second touchdown pass. The turnover free start was key with how outstanding his defense was playing. More of that was needed to pull off the upset. I can also see more of Derrick Henry wearing down the Ravens defense in the 2nd half, expanding on his 56 yards on the ground. 

Even though this game wasn’t what I expected it definitely had me intrigued and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I had no idea what was going to happen next. I thought eventually Baltimore would wake up but things got crazy to start the 2nd half.

2nd Half

Baltimore’s opening drive of the 2nd half looked promising but once again they were stopped on 4th and inches in the red zone, as another Lamar Jackson QB sneak was snuffed out. Derrick Henry then decided it was his time to impose his will on this game. First he rushed for 66 yard to get in the red zone and then madness ensued as he got into wildcat formation and THREW an unexpected 3 yard touchdown to WR Corey Davis. I don’t think anyone (myself included), expected that to happen never mind Henry having more touchdown passes than Jackson to that point in the game.

Things only got worse for the Ravens, when Lamar Jackson was strip sacked by DE Jurrell Casey on their next offensive snap and the Titans fell on top of it. Ryan Tannehill converted that turnover into points with a one yard rushing touchdown to blow the game open and expand the lead to 28-6. You could hear a pin drop in Baltimore and I had a huge smile on my face, well after picking my jaw up off the floor from the insanity of the score. 

Lamar’s Picks

My jaw was right back on the ground when Jackson threw yet another pick right to safety Kenny Vaccaro. My first thought was: what in god’s name was going on here? It was 28-6 Tennessee through 3 quarters and the game was essentially over. To add insult to injury his top receiving options: Mark Andrew, Nick Boyle, Mark Ingram and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown were all dealing with injuries  and were either out or playing hobbled. This game essentially ended on Henry’s touchdown pass, but the turnovers were too much to overcome.

MVP Curse

Jackson became the first player in NFL history throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a playoff game. That being said, he had to throw the ball 50 times and that is never a winning formula. Add that to the fact that his receivers seemed to have butter fingers all night. It was an ugly night all around. He was finally able to reach the end zone firing a 15 yard touchdown pass to TE Hayden Hurst. It was too little too late.

Many people believe Lamar Jackson will win league MVP honors this season. I think he is the clear favorite for that award after scoring 43 total touchdowns this season but tonight wasn’t his night. He was unable to break the MVP curse, as the last MVP to win a Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999 for the St Louis Rams.  Despite that you can’t take away his greatness from the regular season and I look forward to seeing what his encore performance will be in 2020.

All They Got

The Titans played like it was them against the world. Their defense forced three turnovers and stopped Baltimore three times on 4th down, simply squashing all hope. Add in 30 rushes for 195 yards from Derrick Henry and mistake free play by Ryan Tannehill and you have yourselves a dangerous opponent heading to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2002. Now they have to wait for the winner of the Texans at Chiefs divisional playoff matchup.

By: Whitney Dowds