BALTIMORE _ The Tennessee Titans knew that shutting down Lamar Jackson was not a reasonable proposition.
But in borrowing from sportscaster Dan Patrick’s famous cliched phrase, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him,” the Titans defense did just that.
If this was a fantasy football game, Jackson’s performance would have been impressive with 143 yards rushing and 365 yards passing – 508 yards from scrimmage all by himself.
But beyond those numbers, the Titans defense, led by defensive coordinator Dean Pees, accomplished the task they set out to do – they kept the likely NFL MVP bottled up just enough at critical times that the Ravens’ star quarterback had only 12 points to show for all of his statistics.
To go with his 508 yards of total offense, the Titans forced Jackson into three turnovers and also stopped him twice for no gain on fourth-and-1 situations. It set up the Tennessee offense with enough opportunities to score four touchdowns and send the league’s top team and most explosive offense home for the off-season while the upstart Titans march on to the AFC Championship Game next Sunday against the winner of Houston and Kansas City.
“We thought a huge key to the game was our ability to make them kick field goals,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We figured (Justin) Tucker would make then all, which was fine, and then our ability to score when we got down there. To score touchdowns was the difference.”
The Titans did a good job of containing Jackson, even though he broke free for a few big runs.
“The biggest thing was to keep him running from sideline to sideline,” said defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who had a strip sack of Jackson in the third quarter that the Titans turned into a touchdown drive. “Don’t let him get going downhill. When we let one of those plays happen, you saw what he could do. The whole game plan was to get him going sideline to sideline as much as we could We knew if we could make himi throw the ball, we would win the game.”
Jackson certainly had to throw it more than he wanted, putting up a career-high 59 pass attempts, hitting on 31 with one touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks.
After the game, Jackson said the problem was that the Ravens didn’t finish drives.
“We didn’t (have any) rust. We’ve just got to do better. We were driving the ball down the field pretty fine. We’ve just got to finish. We wasn’t finishing like we did all season. We just hit a hump,” Jackson said.
Which played right into the Titans’ plans.
“He’s an elite athlete. We understood that,” said Titans safety Kevin Byard, who had one of Jackson’s three turnovers with a first-quarter interception. “But I think we did a great job coming in and laying with poise. He did run a few times, but we made him run lateral. Of course, he got a couple of good runs because that’s the type player he is. But to get two interceptions, force him to fumble, stop them on fourth down, those were crucial.”
Vrabel said the Titans ability to take an early lead may have knocked the Ravens back on their heels a bit.
“They were catching people in shock and awe in the first quarter,” Vrabel said. “I thought we did a great job. The players understood the scheme. Some of the keys to trying to stop Lamar, we saw when he was gaining yards. When he gained yards, he was getting them between the hashes and the numbers. When we defended from number to number and made him go laterally, there weren’t big plays. And then we were able to get some stops. It could have been a lot better if we were able to get him off the field on some of those third-and-long situations, but we didn’t. We played great red zone defense.”
First in history
Derrick Henry ran for 195 yards in the Titans win Saturday night, and in doing so, started a club of one by becoming the first running back in NFL history to run for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games.
For Henry, it was quite the accomplishment, but one that takes a back seat to the win, he said.
“I take my pride in us winning the game. I don’t really care about that individual stuff. I take a lot of pride in (us winning the game).”
Ravens guard Marshall Yanda could be seen during a stoppage in play going over to Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and having a conversation in the middle of the game.
Apparently that conversation was about Yanda saying that Titans rookie defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons had spit in his face.
“I do want to say another thing about No. 98 (Simmons) for the Titans. In my 13 years, I had that guy spit in my face today. I just want to put him on notice in the media. I have never done this in my career, but I just want to let you know that,” Yanda told reporters in the Ravens locker room. “There is a right way and a wrong way to play football, and that guy did not do it the right way today. So the refs and everybody in the NFL needs to put hi on notice.”
Asked about what he said to Casey during the timeout, Yanda said, “I told Jurrell to get his guy, because that is ridiculous, and I do respect Jurrell and I wanted to let him know to get his guy. That is not acceptable in this game.”
Travel for TitanInsider.com provided by A Moment’s Peace Salon and Day Spa.