Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Great Escape

The Ravens and Titans renewed their rivalry on Saturday. The Ravens and Titans used to play each other twice a year in the old AFC Central before the expansion of the AFC. There were many battles between these two teams. Eddie George vs Ray Lewis. Chris McAlister vs Kevin Dyson. Enroute to their Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants, the Ravens had to go through Tennessee to get there, which they did and the score was 24-10. These two teams met again on Saturday and the result was the same as the Ravens defeated the Titans 13-10.

The game was a defensive affair with two of the top 3 defenses in the league playing in this game. Each team traded touchdowns in different fashions in the first quarter. The Titans touchdown drive can be summed up in two words: Chris Johnson. On that drive, Johnson's speed gave the Ravens defense fits. He had a huge gain of 28 yards after Collins dumps ball out to him in the flat. He makes Bart Scott miss and his speed took over from there. Later in the drive, Chris Johnson scores on a run to the right side, practically beating the Ravens defenders to the spot enroute to the touchdown. His speed was apparent even though the field was slick at the beginning of the game. The Ravens' touchdown scoring drive was helped by a roughing the passer penalty by the Titans along with a couple runs. The actual TD was scored by Derrick Mason on a pass from Joe Flacco. The pass was a frozen rope to Mason as Flacco was showed off his cannon.

The game would change in change the 2nd quarter as the Ravens finally got their legs underneath them. In the beginning of the game, the Ravens defense looked slow and tired as they have been playing football every week since their bye week and had a short week again. Chris Johnson was making them look silly on the football, seemingly always making the first man miss on any given play. However, the Ravens began to assert themselves. On the last two drives of the second quarter, the Titans were able to get deep into Ravens territory. The results were an interception and a fumble. Pressure on the quarter forced the interception as the Ravens sent more defenders than the Titans can blocked, which forced Collins to throw off his back to Samari Rolle. The fumble happened as the Titans were in position to get either a field goal or a touchdown. LenDale White fumbled the football. He did have the football in the correct hand but the football was out away from his body which led to a fumble. Jim Leonhard recovered the fumble. Disaster was avoided in the first half for the Ravens.

In the second half, the two exchanged punts in the 3rd quarter, and in the 4th quarter things got interesting. Before the 3rd quarter ended, the Ravens had the ball. Flacco made a big connection to Mark Clayton for 37 yard gain. Clayton caught the ball in between two defenders. A couple of plays later, Stover hits a field goal. The Titans could not getting going in the second half until late in the game when they repeatedly beat the Ravens on slant routes and other short intermediate routes. They were deep in the redzone when Alge Crumpler fumble the football as the two Ravens hit him low and high. Those two Ravens were Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, respectively. Jim Leonhard subsequently got a concussion because of the hit he gave to Crumpler. Fabian Washington recovered the fumble. On the ensuing possession for the Ravens, their offense goes three and out. They played it safe on that possession as they were inside their own 5 yard line. Titans get the ball and moves into field goal range for a Rob Bironas field goal which was good.

The Ravens had the drive of the game on their next possession. They held the football for four minutes. The drive was not without controversy. Flacco pass to Todd Heap for a 23 yard gain that the Ravens in Titans territory should have counted as the play clock was at zero for more than two seconds. There should have been a delay of game penalty called against the Ravens but that didn't happen. Since that catch, the Ravens were able to move to the Titans 25 yard line and Matt Stover kicked a 43 yard field goal which was good. That drive left only 47 seconds for the Titans on their next possession. The Titans only gained 5 yards on their drive and couldn't convert on fourth down. Game over.

The Ravens will be on the road again next Sunday as they face another rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is no love lost between these two teams. The Steelers swept the season series. The Ravens will look to win the big game in enroute to their second franchise Super Bowl appearance. Go Ravens!

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