The Titans-Ravens rivalry is back on and this time Tennessee seems to have the upper hand. Before kickoff today, the Titans gathered on the midfield logo in Baltimore, drawing the ire of Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who first had words with Malcolm Butler and then got into it with Mike Vrabel.
The Titans were the aggressor early on, driving for a quick Jonnu Smith touchdown catch in nearly the same spot as the famous “one cheek equals two feet” catch from January. However, the Ravens would dominate the middle section of the game, scoring 21 of the next 24 points and taking a 21-10 lead shortly after the half.
The Titans would spend the rest of the game chipping away at that lead, cutting it to 21-16 with a pair of field goals before finally breaking through with a go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the game. A Ravens field goal sent it to overtime, but a Harold Landry sack and a couple big catches by Corey Davis set up Derrick Henry’s game-clinching 29-yard touchdown run (a touching tribute to former Ravens safety Earl Thomas) in overtime.
The win moves the Titans to 7-3 and officially back into a playoff spot after losses for the Dolphins and Raiders dropped a couple more from the previous clump of 6-3 teams in the AFC. They’ll get a chance to retake the division lead in Indianapolis on Sunday in what feels like a pseudo-division championship matchup.
This was a massive massive win for the Titans despite some difficult circumstances. The players who missed snaps in this game due to injuries in this game include Derrick Henry, Ben Jones, Jonnu Smith, and Jayon Brown. That’s on top of being without their two best offensive linemen in Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold as well as missing Jadeveon Clowney, Kenny Vaccaro, Adoree’ Jackson, and Adam Humphries from the lineup this week.
Let’s jump into winners and losers from Titans 30, Ravens 24.
Winner: A.J. Brown
He only finished with 62 yards on 4 catches and had another bad drop for a third consecutive week so the stat line isn’t eye-popping. However… the play he made to put the Titans on top with 2:18 left in the game was among the most incredible individual efforts you’ll ever see on a football field.
Let’s go back and set the stage a bit for what we saw here. It was 3rd and 10 from the Ravens 14 after a mishandled snap by Ryan Tannehill led to a Matthew Judon sack on 2nd and 2. The Titans were trailing 21-16 and had just over two minutes left. With all three timeouts remaining, Mike Vrabel could have opted for a field goal to cut it to 21-19 and try to force a quick three and out.
If A.J. goes down where he’s initially hit, it’s 4th and 4 and there is a huge decision to make. However, Brown had other ideas. He shrugged off the initial hit by safety Chuck Clark, then ran out of the grasp of both Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters before eventually dragging first-round linebacker Patrick Queen into the end zone. It was, without hyperbole, probably the most physical run after catch by a wide receiver that I’ve ever seen. Brown willed his way into the end zone and carried the Titans 2020 season back onto the tracks.
Loser: Ty Sambrailo
We knew Sambrailo was in for a long day going into this game. His matchup with Yannick Ngakoue didn’t go very well for the tackle in Week 3 when Ngakoue was a Viking and it was another rough ride for Sambrailo today.
He got beat for a sack on the play below (ruled a fumble) and was just generally getting worked by Ngakoue for a long stretch of this game.
The Titans certainly miss Taylor Lewan, and at times, the protection issues on Tannehill’s blindside are appearing to cause a lot of discomfort for the QB. The offensive staff must continue to find ways to help Sambrailo, especially against high end edge rushers.
Winner: Derrick Henry
The Titans-Ravens rivalry is back, but the roles seem to be reversed this time around with Tennessee crashing the party of top-seeded Baltimore in last year’s playoffs and then proving to be a thorn in their side again today. And Derrick Henry has emerged as the Ray Lewis figure of the rivalry. He’s the physical leader of the Titans and seems to have a knack for making huge plays against the Ravens. Like, this one, for example.
Henry delivering the final nail in the coffin was fitting after his masterful performance in Baltimore in January. He finished the day with 133 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown.
It was a milestone day for the King, as he surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, jumped Dalvin Cook to regain the rushing title lead, and scored his 50th NFL touchdown.
Loser: Red Zone Playcalling
The Titans are usually fantastic in the red zone, but today was rough inside the 20 for Arthur Smith. Let’s start with the most obvious one. You absolutely cannot have a new center enter the game cold and immediately be asked to shotgun snap in a wildcat formation. Ben Jones had to leave the game after getting his eye gouged by a Ravens defender and Jamil Douglas’ sole snap sailed over Henry’s head and forced the Titans to cover the ball for a 12 yard loss on 2nd and goal from the 7. Just like that a potential game tying touchdown turns into a field goal attempt.
However, that wasn’t the only issue for the Titans near the goal line. Their second to last drive of regulation saw them work their way down to 3rd and 2 at the Ravens 4, down 21-13. It felt to me like a situation where you have to see if the Ravens can stop Henry twice. Instead, they opted to pass, had nothing open, and Tannehill was forced to flip it out of the back of the end zone.
The third call I took issue with was the play before A.J. Brown’s touchdown. It was 2nd and 2 at the Ravens 6 and the Titans come out in shotgun looking to throw. The result was a sack that nearly cost them dearly. Why are they not running the football in that situation? I get that they had a banged up offensive line, but 2nd and 2 in the red area is a run down for me 9 times out of 10. If you are going to throw it, you better at least be using a play fake.
Arthur Smith track record in the red zone is impeccable, but this was a strange outing for him.
Winner: Titans pass coverage
Lamar Jackson has struggled this year in general, but the Titans did a pretty good job of making life tough on him today. Jackson completed just 58.6% of his throws and averaged only 6.4 yards per attempt. There were several plays that saw the 2019 MVP buy tons of time in the pocket, but still not be able to find anyone open downfield. They also intercepted him once (Amani Hooker’s team leading 3rd interception of the year).
The Titans weren’t just getting lucky with inaccurate throws either. They got their hands on six passes, two each for Amani Hooker and Desmond King (who had a huge breakup on the Ravens final drive of regulation) and one each for Kevin Byard and Breon Borders.
I thought this was their best coverage day of the year so far.
Winner: Logan Woodside and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
What a weird way to get your first NFL pass, but man did Logan Woodside make the most of it. The Titans dialed up a fake punt towards the end of the first half, sneaking Woodside onto the field in the personal protector spot and having him roll right and hit gunner/wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine near the sticks for a first down.
The throw is an absolute rocket by Woodside and right on the money. On the other side, the route, stick awareness, and catch by Westbrook-Ikhine were fantastic too. Really well executed play by the Titans in a big spot.
Winner: Corey Davis
A.J. Brown will get top billing among the Titans pass catchers thanks to that ridiculous play he made at the end, but Davis had the bigger numbers overall.
Davis finished with 113 yards on 5 catches, including two huge grabs in overtime. It was his third 100-yard outing of 2020 after he entering the year with just two 100-yard games in his career and he re-took the team’s receiving yards leader spot from Brown (549 to 540).
This is trending towards becoming Davis’ best season in his four years as a Titan.
Winner: Aaron Brewer
Aaron Brewer got the start at left guard over Jamil Douglas, and while he wasn’t perfect, he also wasn’t a big problem for the Titans offense today. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but a rookie lineman making his first career start is almost always a big problem.
Brewer is an interesting player. At 6’-1” and 274 pounds, he doesn’t fit the mold of a modern NFL offensive lineman. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that he’s the smallest lineman to start an NFL game in at least a decade. However, he makes up for that size with effort, athleticism, and a good understanding of leverage. I think his long term spot is at center, and while it’s too early to say that the Titans have stumbled onto their Ben Jones replacement, this was a nice debut for the rookie from Texas State.
Winner: Harold Landry
This was a strong game for Landry. He piled up 7 tackles with his usual mix of athleticism and hustle and then turned in one of the biggest plays of the game when he sacked Lamar Jackson on 2nd and 8 in overtime allowed the Titans defense to get off the field quickly and turn it over to the offense with pretty good field position.
It was a huge play by a guy the Titans desperately needed on Sunday.