RB Chris Johnson showed everyone how much better he made QB Kerry Collins and
RB LenDale White this year.
Johnson's quickness and cutting ability befuddled Ravens defenders during the first 26 minutes of play. He ran the ball 11 times for 72 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown scamper and a 32-yard jaunt. Johnson also caught one pass for 28 yards before an ankle injury sidelined the rookie sensation for the Titans' last possession of the first half and the balance of the contest.
That injury left the rest of the Titans offense limping as well.
Quarterback Kerry Collins completed 15 of his 20 first-half attempts for 177 yards with one interception. But in the second half, Collins completed just 11 of his 22 throws for 110 yards. The veteran was frequently throwing off of his back foot, overthrew receivers on long routes, and floated the ball too high on a number of medium routes. On occasion, receivers such as Justin Gage (10-135) made leaping catches on what could have been routine receptions in stride.
Meanwhile, LenDale White, who has gotten a terrific ride on Johnson's coattails this season, proved once again that he's not capable of carrying the load for his team. He finished the night with 15 carries for an uninspiring 45 yards, just 3.0 yards-per-carry. White tacked on four catches for 35 yards, just seven more yards than Johnson posted on his single catch in the first half.
White simply doesn't have the initial burst that Johnson possesses, and he lacks Johnson's nifty moves. As a result, the Ravens defense stifled him on 11 of his 15 carries, dropping him for no gain or a loss four times and limiting him to no more than two yards on seven other carries.
Tennessee had 256 yards of offense in the first half on five possessions, but just 135 in the second half on seven possessions with Chris Johnson looking on from the bench.
Bart Scott and Ray Lewis continue to knock the stuffing out of people.
Those two guys were landing blows that will be remembered by the unfortunate Titans who were on the receiving end of their hits for quite some time. Scott made 11 tackles, including nine solo efforts, two tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit. Lewis also had 11 tackles, eight of them solo, made one tackle for a loss and forced a fumble.
Titans CB Nick Harper breaks up a pass intended for Ravens WR Derrick Mason.
AP Photo/John Russell
The Titans defense held the Ravens' formidable rushing game to just 50 yards and 1.7 yards per carry, although they certainly benefited by the fact that LeRon McClain was hobbled by an ankle injury and didn't appear to be running with a full head of steam after he returned to action with his ankle heavily taped.
McClain finished the night with just 12 yards to show for his 12 rushing attempts, while shifty veteran Willis McGahee was limited to 32 yards on his 12 carries.
Tennessee didn't allow a single run longer than 11 yards all evening and made eight tackles in the Ravens' backfield. Linebacker Keith Bulluck, who led the Titans with eight tackles, made two of the tackles for a loss.
Matt Stover may not have the leg to kick 50-yard field goals anymore, but
he sure gets the job done.
Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who will turn 41 on January 27, is wrapping up his 19th NFL season. Stover kicked a pair of field goals against the Titans during Saturday night's action, including the game-winner.
While his leg strength may be waning with age, his accuracy sure hasn't suffered. The team carries a kickoff specialist who would likely be called upon to try any kick of more than 50 yards, but Stover has converted 81.8 percent of his field goal attempts during the regular season and has converted all four of his postseason attempts to date.
His longest attempt and successful field goal during the regular season was from 47-yards out.
You can't expect to move on to the AFC Championship when you commit 12
penalties and turn the ball over three times.
While the Titans were the fourth-most penalized team in the league during the regular season with 6.75 per game, they nearly doubled that sloppiness on Saturday night. They drew 12 flags for 89 yards, including a pair of unnecessary roughness penalties and a roughing the passer call.
Credit the Ravens defense for forcing three turnovers at key moments in the game, taking a minimum of nine points away from the Titans.
Pressure on Collins forced him to make a bad decision with the team in scoring position, lofting a ball that Baltimore cornerback Samari Rolle gleefully snatched out of the air at the Ravens' 9-yard line. Baltimore's defense also forced LenDale White to cough-up the ball at the Ravens' 17 in the first half, and then clobbered tight end Alge Crumpler, separating him from the ball at the Ravens' 6-yard line with less than nine minutes to play.
And it could have been much worse. Tennessee fumbled the ball a total of five times, recovering their own miscues three times.
Jim Leonhard, who wasn't re-signed by Buffalo earlier this year, was the
Leonhard, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Buffalo back in 2005, was involved in all three Titans turnovers. In the first half, he recovered LenDale White's fumble and pressured Kerry Collins into throwing an interception. Then, he teamed up with linebacker Bart Scott to put the hit on Alge Crumpler that forced the third turnover.
Leonhard, who Baltimore signed as an unrestricted free agent earlier this year, made a total of five tackles on the night, including one for a five-yard loss that forced a fourth-down play that the Titans failed to convert. He also returned a punt for 29 yards to Tennessee's 41-yard line that led to a successful field goal.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
I still don't understand the media's and fans' obsession with "Flacco-mania."
Joe Flacco has done an admirable job as a rookie, especially in the area of not making big mistakes that hurt his team. And I love his poise on the football field. He hits me as a smart, strong-armed quarterback who should have a bright future.
But his level of contribution to the Ravens' offense has been limited, which is why I continue to be confused by people being caught up in what I've called "Flacco-mania" as far back as the NFL Combine. During his press conference at the Combine, even Flacco expressed his surprise over all the fuss the fans and the media were making over him.
Because of that strong arm, the Ravens usually take a few shots downfield, hoping that Derrick Mason or Mark Clayton can run underneath the ball for a big gain, or perhaps draw a pass interference call. But beyond that, Flacco hasn't been a major factor in moving the offense.
The Ravens are winning thanks to their tremendous defense and, usually, a big-time rushing attack. If they come up empty on those long pass attempts next week, or in the Super Bowl if they advance as AFC Champions, they could get burned because they don't have the offensive firepower to keep up with a team like the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers, who had a pretty darn good defense of their own, found that out on Saturday.
Last week against the Dolphins, Flacco completed just 39 percent of his throws. Against the Titans he finished 11-22 for 161 yards and one touchdown, with 108 of the yards earned on three passes, including a 23-yard strike to Todd Heap that should have been negated by a delay of game penalty against the rookie. That means his other eight completions covered just 53 yards for his team, and just five of his throws resulted in a first down.
That said, the Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at the helm combined with a stout defense following the 2000 regular season. Dilfer didn't throw for more than 200 yards in any of the Ravens' postseason matchups that year, and he threw just three touchdown passes and one interception.
There weren't any signs of "Dilfer-mania" that year. The fans and the media saw Dilfer for what he was that season—a capable, efficient, signal-caller.
That's what Joe Flacco is right now as a rookie, which is a very significant accomplishment. We'll have to wait and see if that's enough for Baltimore to claim another Lombardi Trophy.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.