Building early lead crucial for first round win

Friday, January 8, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 2
By Terry McCormick

Can the Titans make it three consecutive wins against the Ravens in less than a full year? The Ravens opened as a field goal favorite, but they also were favored in their last two losses to Tennessee.

Here’s what the Titans have to do to win.

First down

Play from ahead. The Titans are a much better team when they can play with a lead and not put too much of a load on their beleaguered defense. That means handing the football to Derrick Henry and letting good things happen.

The Titans need their offense to carry them in the playoffs, and that means a healthy dose of Henry complemented by Ryan Tannehill and the passing game.

Second down

Stay in Lamar’s head. The Titans are 2-0 against Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, winning once this year and in the playoffs last season. Jackson and the Ravens will be eager for revenge, but the Ravens star QB and 2019 league MVP is 0-2 in the playoffs.

The Titans have to find a way to maintain that upper hand, even with a defense that isn’t very good with a pass rush or in coverage.

Third down

Take some shots. The Ravens know a big dose of Henry is coming, but if they sell out to stop the run, the Titans have the firepower with A.J. Brown and Corey Davis catching passes from Tannehill to make them pay with deep shots and yards after the catch. Those opportunities should be there. It’s up to them to take advantage.

Fourth down

Break the curse. The home team has never won when the Titans and Ravens have met in the playoffs. Everyone remembers Baltimore ruining Titans’ seasons in 2000 and 2008, but the Titans returned the favor at M&T Bank Stadium in 2003 and last year.

The onus will be on the Titans to try and reverse that curse and be the team that wins a home game in this postseason rivalry.