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VOL. 44 | NO. 2 | Friday, January 10, 2020

Titans must contain Ravens’ QB, the likely league MVP

By Terry McCormick

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Tramaine Brock, left, and Adoree’ Jackson defend against Phillip Dorsett on Saturday night in Foxboro.

-- Photo By Elise Amendola | Ap Photo

The Tennessee Titans shocked the New England Patriots and now advance to the AFC Divisional Playoffs where old rival Baltimore awaits at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night.

But these Ravens, while still tough on defense and special teams, are not built the same as the team Titans fans hated a decade or two ago. Instead, Baltimore has juiced up its offense with MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh in the middle of last season abandoned the team’s traditional offense and went with the run-pass option system like Jackson operated at the University of Louisville where he won the Heisman Trophy.

And Jackson has rewarded Harbaugh by becoming the league’s most dynamic offensive player, quieting the doubters who said he would either get hurt or not throw the football well enough to be effective.

Jackson rushed for more than 1,000 yards and had 36 TD passes with just six interceptions.

So what will the Titans have to do to pull another shocker and reach the AFC title game?

First down

Find a way to slow Jackson. The Titans probably won’t shut Jackson down completely, but they have to find ways to contain him, whether that is spying him with a defensive back and taking their chances in the pass matchups, or employing defensive disguises or using the old “mush rush” to try and keep him in the pocket. Either way, Jackson’s ability to improvise and use his athleticism is something very few teams have figured out.

Second down

Keep running the football. Derrick Henry has been the bell cow for the Titans this season and added an exclamation point to his 2019 season with 182 yards rushing in the wild-card win at New England. The Ravens know the Titans are going to try to impose their will again in the run game. The Titans have to be able to keep Henry going, because if the chains move for the Titans offense, it means that Jackson can’t hurt them from the sideline.

Third down

Reignite the passing game. The Titans won in New England despite throwing for just 76 yards against the Patriots. Even though scoring was down in all the wild-card games, the Titans have to get the combination of Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown reignited for some big plays to keep the pressure off Henry and the run game.

Fourth down

Keep the ‘Why not us?’ mentality. Henry began talking about the Titans in camp with a “Why not us” approach as far as making a deep run in the playoffs. The Titans played fearlessly in New England and they head to another hostile environment this week in Baltimore. They will have to keep that ‘them against the world’ approach as all their playoff games will be on the road as the sixth seed.

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