Derrick Henry had 195 rushing yards on 30 carries and added a three-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis as the Tennessee Titans continued their upset spree in the AFC playoffs with a 28-12 win over the host Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday in the conference's divisional round.
Henry, who also added seven yards on two receptions, has now gained 406 yards from scrimmage in this year's playoffs after getting 204 on 35 touches against the New England Patriots in the Wild Card Round.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 143 yards on 20 carries but struggled passing, going 31-of-59 for 365 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and lost a fumble.
Baltimore also turned the ball over on downs four times.
Tennessee opened the scoring off this Jonnu Smith 12-yard circus catch for a touchdown late in the first quarter:
The Titans forced a turnover on downs after a Jackson quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1 from the Baltimore 45-yard line was unsuccessful.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Kalif Raymond delivered Tennessee's second touchdown one play later.
The Ravens got on the board with a pair of field goals before halftime, making the score 14-6 at the break.
Another Baltimore turnover on downs gave the Titans the ball at their own 19-yard line early in the third quarter. They found themselves in the red zone quickly after this Henry 66-yard rumble:
Henry finished off the Titans' drive with a touchdown but did so in an unconventional manner by delivering a jump pass out of the Wildcat formation to Davis three plays later:
Tennessee's defense then made a huge play as a Jurrell Casey sack forced a Jackson fumble recovered by Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons.
That set up the Titans with a 1st-and-10 from the Ravens' 20-yard line. Tannehill scored six plays later on an option from 3rd-and-goal on the Ravens' 1-yard line.
Tennessee forced another turnover on the Ravens' next drive after a Kenny Vaccaro pick:
But the Ravens eventually scored their lone touchdown after Jackson found Hayden Hurst for a 10-yard score with 11:04 remaining in the game:
Tennessee all but sealed the game with another turnover on downs after the Ravens could not convert a 4th-and-5 from the Titans' 16-yard line with 4:31 left.
The 9-7 Titans qualified for the playoffs in their last game of the season following a 35-14 win over the Houston Texans. They proceeded to upset the 12-4 New England Patriots on the road in the Wild Card Round before taking down the 14-2 Ravens.
Baltimore's 2019 campaign ends in disappointment after a fantastic season where the Ravens sported the league's best win-loss record and point differential. The Ravens also won their last 12 games and went 7-1 at home before the Titans game.
Baltimore was favored by 10 points entering the game, per Caesar's Sportsbook. The Titans were also 4-1 moneyline underdogs.
Titans RB Derrick Henry: 30 carries, 195 yards; 2 catches, 7 yards; 1-of-1, 1 TD, 3 yards
Titans QB Ryan Tannehill: 7-of-14, 88 yards, 2 TD; 6 carries, 13 yards, 1 TD
Titans WR Kalif Raymond: 1 catch, 45 yards, 1 TD
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: 31-of-59, 365 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; 20 carries, 143 yards
Ravens TE Hayden Hurst: 4 catches, 53 yards, 1 TD
Ravens WR Marquise Brown: 7 catches, 126 yards
Titans OC Arthur Smith Deserves a Game Ball
The MVP of the game was Derrick Henry, who continued his phenomenal postseason after amassing 204 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against the New England Patriots the week before.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is the driving force behind a tough, hard-nosed Titans team with a powerful offense and a ferocious defense that is firing on all cylinders.
Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kalif Raymond and others fired off highlight-reel plays all night, but the architect of the day deserves credit.
Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith turned in a masterful performance. He made all the right moves to school a Ravens defense that ranked fourth in Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) in the regular season.
The tone-setting decision occurred in the first quarter after a turnover on downs gave Tennessee the ball at the Ravens' 45-yard line. The Titans led 7-0 at the time, and no one would have been too surprised to see Tennessee run and play conservatively against a ball-hawking Ravens defense.
But Smith made a season-altering call to go for the jugular.
The Titans faked a handoff to Henry on play action before Tannehill fired a beautiful pass to Raymond for a 45-yard touchdown, beating Marlon Humphrey.
Raymond caught just nine passes for the Titans this season, but Smith had the confidence to make him the target on the play of the game, which stunned M&T Bank Stadium crowd.
Next Gen Stats pointed out the degree of difficulty while also noting Tannehill's success throwing the deep ball:
Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats
Ryan Tannehill's 45-yard TD to Kalif Raymond traveled 57.8 yards in the air ("air distance"), Tannehill's 2nd-deepest completion this season. Tannehill has completed 3 passes of 55+ air distance this season, tied for most in the NFL (Matthew Stafford). #TENvsBAL | #Titans https://t.co/pz9dgkeMHE
The Titans defense kept the Ravens offense at bay in response, but Baltimore did kick two field goals to cut the lead to 14-6.
Tennessee opened the second half with another forced turnover on downs, leading to another Smith stroke of genius.
A 66-yard run from Henry put the Titans on the doorstep of another touchdown, but Baltimore held firm and forced a 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
That doesn't seem like the best time to take your quarterback off the field, but Smith put Henry in shotgun formation with Tannehill on the sideline.
A run out of the Wildcat formation seemed like the obvious move, but the shock of the night occurred instead as Henry issued a jump-pass touchdown to Corey Davis for a 20-6 lead.
Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV Nashville's News 2 noted how the setup sold the fake perfectly:
The momentum was squarely in Tennessee's favor at that point, and the defense slammed the door shut from that point.
Turron Davenport of ESPN offered a few apt adjectives to describe Smith's performance.
And ex-NFL lineman Ross Tucker gave credit where it was due:
Evan Silva of Establish the Run was ahead of the curve after the Titans' win over the Pats, noting Tennessee's offensive successes:
It helps to have Henry and a fantastic offensive line when directing an offense, but the Titans underwent a midseason coaching change and didn't even feature their top wideout (rookie A.J. Brown) until the middle of the year. Tennessee is also without injured tight end Delanie Walker (ankle).
The bottom line is the Titans are in the midst of a remarkable upset run thanks in large part to Smith, who should be hearing from NFL teams about head-coaching possibilities this time next year.
Ravens' Disappointing Playoff Exit Should Not Fall Squarely on Jackson's Shoulders
Does Jackson deserve his share of the blame for the Ravens' second straight disappointing playoff exit?
Sure. Jackson looked mortal after a near-invincible regular season. He committed three turnovers, and his team failed to convert four fourth downs.
He also rushed throws and looked out of sync and uncomfortable in the midst of a powerful Titans defensive front.
But the Ravens' issue is that the team goes as Jackson goes. He's bailed out Baltimore time and time again, but when Jackson needed the Ravens to do the same for him Saturday, it didn't happen.
Jackson didn't get beat deep by a Titans wideout who caught nine passes all year. The front seven let Henry rattle off a game-breaking 66-yard run in the third quarter.
Smith, whose masterful game plan provided the blueprint for Tennessee's shocking victory, won a battle of wits with the Ravens coaching staff.
Titans tight end Jonnu Smith made a ridiculous catch to put Tennessee on the board, and running back Mark Ingram II's calf injury (that he gamely gutted through) limited him Saturday.
The Ravens also dropped six passes, per the Associated Press' Teresa Walker.
Granted, Baltimore is a far better team than it showed Saturday. Everything that could go wrong did.
That was largely the case in 2018 as well, when Jackson and the Ravens fell 23-17 to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Baltimore fall behind 23-3 to the Bolts before two late touchdowns. No Ravens running back had more than 23 yards rushing, and Jackson was sacked seven times. They had three turnovers and 229 passing yards.
The 2019 playoffs saw the Ravens fall behind 28-6 to the Titans before a fourth-quarter touchdown made it a bit closer, but in reality, the Titans crushed Baltimore from start to finish.
The easy criticism is to call Jackson a playoff choker, but that is unfair.
Jackson is the most important and valuable man on the Ravens roster, but the team dresses 46 players on game days.
One player can't win a game by himself, even though Jackson's ability to control a game is unmatched.
But sometimes, Jackson isn't going to have that opportunity, whether it's because of a tough opposing defense or some unusual struggles.
The fact that it happened under a bright nationally televised spotlight distorts the full picture of Jackson. Does he have things to work on? Sure, but he's 23 years old with plenty of football left. Two years ago, people were saying he should enter the draft as a wide receiver. Now he's coming off a year as the NFL's best player.
In closing, football analyst Warren Sharp explained why the Jackson haters are off-base:
Warren Sharp @SharpFootball
Tonight is like the Purge for Lamar Haters. Come on out & tell us why you've been wrong all season long but are so, so right overall because of tonight. God knows you've had nothing to say all year as he's dominated the record books, we've missed your wisdom this year. https://t.co/KWS9oktuCM
Jackson isn't the first great athlete to receive criticism for less than ideal playoff performances early in his career, and he won't be the last.
However, the bottom line is Jackson is only two years into a promising career.
He'll be the victim of hot takes Monday, but that's the price athletes pay in an instant-gratification society where some people only care about what an athlete has done for them lately.
The Titans have now advanced to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1999 season, when they defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars to advance to their only Super Bowl in franchise history.
Tennessee will visit the winner of the Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs AFC Divisional Round matchup. That one will take place Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.
The AFC Championship will occur in either Kansas City or Houston's NRG Stadium on January 19 at 3:05 p.m. CBS will televise the game.