The Baltimore Ravens today showed why they led the league with 49 forced turnovers, scoring 14 points on turnovers to break open a tight game and beat the Tennessee Titans 24-10 in the AFC divisional playoff game at Adelphia Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
Baltimore middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the Defensive Player of the Year and anchor of the Ravens’ second-ranked defense, picked off a pass and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown with six minutes and 41 seconds left to deliver the final blow to a Tennessee team that unraveled in the fourth quarter.
The Titans, who allowed just two touchdowns in 24 games, gave up three today against a revved Ravens team that allowed a record-low 165 points in the 16-game regular season and gave up just one touchdown today.
The Ravens won the battle between the league’s top two defenses and earned a spot in next week’s AFC Championship game against the Oakland Raiders, who eliminated Miami Saturday in their divisional playoff game.
The Titans saw their hopes for another Super Bowl appearance slip away as the Ravens shut down Eddie George in the second half and 17-year veteran kicker Al Del Greco again failed to make field goals.
Kicking Problems Continue for Del Greco
Ray Lewis’ nine tackles, three assists and one interception led a Ravens defense that held Tennessee’s leading rusher George to 30 yards rushing in the second half and 91 yards on 27 carries overall. The effort marked the 35th time the Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher against them.
While the defense stopped George, the special teams unit made big plays to break open the game.
Keith Washington blocked two Del Greco field goals, as the Tennessee kicker’s problems continued against the Ravens. Anthony Mitchell caught Washington’s second blocked field goal and ran the ball back 90 yards for a score to give the Ravens their first lead, 17-10, with 12:12 left in the game.
Washington also tipped Al Del Greco’s 45-yard field goal attempt earlier in the game, causing it to veer to the left.
Del Greco, who missed a field goal and an extra point in the Titans’ one-point loss to the Ravens in November, also missed a 31-yard field goal attempt today as time expired at the half.
Del Greco made a 21-yarder to put Tennessee ahead 10-7 in the third, a score that was set up by a blocked punt by Tennessee’s Chris Coleman. The wide receiver blocked two of Kyle Richardson’s punts today.
Matt Stover’s 38-yard field goal tied the game 10-10 for the Ravens.
Jamal Lewis Held to 47 Yards Rushing
The Tennessee defense sacked Trent Dilfer three times and stymied the Baltimore running game, holding Jamal Lewis to just 47 yards on 17 carries. Lewis did score on a 1-yard run with 9:46 left in the half, a touchdown that was set up by a 56-yard passing play to Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharpe and tied the game 7-7.
But Tennessee’s cautious offense couldn’t step it up when the Ravens took over the lead.
The Titans scored first on an 11-play, methodical opening drive in which George carried the ball five times, including his 2-yard scoring run. Scrambling quarterback Steve McNair ran twice for a total of 10 yards at key moments in a series that consumed nearly eight minutes of the clock.
McNair was 24-for-46 today for 176 yards passing and rushed for 31 yards. His one interception proved costly, as Ray Lewis snapped up the pass bobbling out of George’s hands and scored the first touchdown of his five-year career.
The Ravens have now won eight games in a row, including a commanding 21-3 victory over the Denver Broncos in last week’s AFC wild-card game. Dilfer, who went 5-for-16 and 117 yards passing, is now 9-1 as a starter for Baltimore.
The Ravens beat the Titans 24-23 the last time they played on Nov. 12, handing Tennessee its first home loss in two seasons and holding George to just 28 yards on 12 carries.