5 reasons for the outcome

1. Despite severely curtailing quarterback Steve McNair's impact with three interceptions, the Baltimore Ravens couldn't stop the league's co-Most Valuable Player, or his Tennessee Titans in the most critical juncture of the football game. Tied 17-17 with two minutes remaining in Saturday's AFC wild-card playoff, McNair completed all four of his attempts to get 44-year-old kicker Gary Anderson in position for his game-winning 46-yard field goal.

Five years ago when Ravens coach Brian Billick was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator, Anderson missed a potential game-winning field goal in the AFC title game against the Atlanta Falcons. McNair's contribution was much more limited than usual, but he did throw a third-quarter touchdown pass to Justin McCareins that regained the momentum for a Titans squad that had lost the last five games in the series to Baltimore. McNair only finished with 159 yards and a 56.5 quarterback rating. However, he distributed the football to eight different receivers and was never sacked despite having a sprained ankle, a cracked bone spur and a strained calf muscle. 

Once again, McNair became the King of Pain of sorts, continuing a trend of playing despite a variety of injuries. He wasn't sharp for the majority of the game, but was good enough when it counted most. 

2. NFL Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis, a 2,066-yard rusher who put together the second-most prolific season in NFL history behind Erid Dickerson, was shut down by the Titans' top-ranked run defense. He gained a season-low 35 yards on 14 attempts for an average of 2.5 per rush. The Pro Bowl selection's longest run was only eight yards as Tennessee advanced to the AFC divisional round instead of a youthful Baltimore team. 

Lewis became the latest standout runner to be held to under 100 yards by a Titans defense that only let Indianapolis' Edgerrin James exceed the 100-yard barrier this season on Sept. 14. The Titans allowed only 80.9 yards per game in the regular season. 

3. Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown lost his temper and committed two costly personal fouls. With Baltimore at its own 35 after an incomplete pass, Brown pushed Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse because Kearse was standing over a teammate and taunting him. As usual, officials caught the second infraction. The penalty pushed Baltimore back to its own 20 and the Titans wound up with possession at their 37 before McNair engineered the drive that set up Anderson's field goal. 

In the second quarter with Baltimore pushing the ball to the Titans' 24, Brown continued to block Kearse and pushed him roughly to the ground after play had been halted. The Ravens wound up settling for a field goal and a 10-7 advantage heading into halftime. Brown was one of the most penalized players in the league this season, according to Stats, Inc. 

4. Titans running back Eddie George was supposedly not able to pound defenders the way he used to when teammates called him "The Beast," and defenses feared his rugged style of play. He obviously didn't agree with the scouting report of Ravens All-Pro linebacker and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ray Lewis. Lewis said he wasn't capable of inflicting the punishment and intimidating defenses the way he could when he was younger. George responded with 88 yards on 25 carries as Chris Brown gained 61 yards on 11 attempts as Tennessee totaled 165 yards on 40 attempts with one touchdown. 

5. The Titans built a 35 minute and eight-second advantage in time of possession over the Ravens' 24:52. Plus, Tennessee's average drive began at its own 33 with Baltimore starting its drives at an average starting position of its 21-yard line. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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