Still, the injuries do not explain one of the most stunning upsets in years. Baltimore was the seventh-most-efficient team in the past 35 years, according to Football Outsiders. The Ravens had 3,296 rushing yards, the highest mark in the Super Bowl era. But the Titans out-Ravens’d the Ravens on Saturday. While Baltimore’s 5.5-yards-per-carry mark was also the highest in the Super Bowl era, the Titans have had a higher average since Ryan Tannehill took over in Week 7 (5.6). On Saturday, Henry ran 30 times for 195 yards, or 6.5 yards per carry. Tannehill had just 88 passing yards in this game, barely an improvement over last week, when he had 72 passing yards, a career low in a game in which he had at least six pass attempts. Of all the shocking parts of this result, the most surprising may be that the Titans applied the same game plan to Baltimore’s dominant offense that they used on New England’s anemic one, and they got an even more convincing win against the Ravens.
The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Playoff Loss to Titans - John Eisenberg
No one blinked when Head Coach John Harbaugh went for it twice on fourth-and-1, once in the second quarter, once in the third quarter. The Ravens had been aggressive in such situations all season. They’d led the league in converting fourth downs into firsts. They hadn’t faltered on fourth-and-1 all year. But their regular season mojo didn’t work this time. They were stuffed twice, forced to turn the ball over on downs.
And what really made it a problem was the Titans, showing admirable killer instinct, immediately made them pay both times. Ryan Tannehill tossed a long touchdown pass on the first play after the stuff in the second quarter, giving the Titans a 14-0 lead. And after the stuff in the third quarter, which came in the red zone after a long Baltimore drive, the Titans quickly drove 81 yards to a dagger of a touchdown. Bottom line, what had worked all year cost the Ravens dearly. Jackson is quite a weapon on fourth and short, but it didn’t matter this time. The issue was the execution on the field, not the decision to be aggressive, which was nothing new.
As Don McLean once said, bad news on the doorstep, at least for the darling of the analytics community – the Baltimore Ravens – getting bumped from the playoffs by Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. There’s no doubting Henry had a huge game, but the key to this game was the Titans putting Baltimore out of their comfort zone early, capitalizing on turnovers, scoring twice through the air and building a lead. Tennessee flipped the analytical percentages, stuffing a crucial Ravens 4th-and-1 play near midfield – the first time all season the Ravens failed to convert 4th and short – then did it again later in the game. This was the perfect storm of things going against Baltimore, and the Titans did a great job of capitalizing on the Ravens’ inability to execute in the first half (such as three first-half drops) before steering the ship home in the second 30 minutes of football.
Jackson will be the focus of this defeat, as he was the focus of Baltimore’s success, but he doesn’t deserve the kind of meme treatment he’s getting off the back of it. He certainly began to push too hard in the second half and made mistakes in terms of turnovers – an ugly interception when he failed to read a dropping Kenny Vaccaro and a fumble when he tried to take too long in the face of pressure were poor plays symptomatic of trying to do force plays – but there was a lot of good Jackson in this game. In the first half, he was let down by drops, but even so was able to drop a perfect deep pass in to Brown that gave the Ravens a chance to score before the half and narrow the deficit. Credit also needs to go to the Titans’ defense, which forced a series of contested targets to Ravens receivers that are used to being wide open all year.
Ravens Report Card Vs. Titans - Todd Karpovich
COACHING: John Harbaugh said he was not worried about rust because of the postseason bye as the No. 1 seed. However, the Ravens came out flat and never matched the Titans’ intensity. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was outcoached by Dean Pees. Baltimore defensive coordinator could not figure out a way to stop Henry. Grade D.
Upset Ravens left reeling after Divisional Round loss to Titans - Judy Battista
“I feel like we were too excited,” Jackson said. “We just got out of our element a little too fast, trying to beat them to the punch. We just were slow today a little bit.”
But Coach John Harbaugh was not so adamant if the long layoff may have slowed his team.
”I don’t have that answer,” he said. “It’s unanswerable. Our guys practiced really hard and did the best they could, but we didn’t play a sharp football game, for sure. What should you attribute that to? I guess you can theorize a lot of different things.”
”This team’s identity right now is to get to the playoffs and choke. It is what it is. That’s just the hard truth,” said cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Asked how this team should be remembered, he replied: “As losers, I guess.”