With the Ravens finally breaking through in the postseason with a 20-13 victory at Tennessee, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. After losing home playoff games in each of the previous two seasons, Baltimore secured John Harbaugh his eighth career road postseason win to set a new NFL record. Some coaches and their teams just seem better suited with an underdog mindset even if the Ravens were favored against the Titans.
2. Much like the Titans held 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis to 35 yards on 14 carries in the 2003 postseason, the Ravens limited Derrick Henry to 40 yards on 18 rushing attempts. Holding Tennessee to one rushing first down on a Ryan Tannehill fourth-quarter sneak was nothing short of outstanding.
3. Wink Martindale made frequent use of the base package with Jimmy Smith playing only 21 defensive snaps and rookie inside linebacker Malik Harrison playing 28, his highest total since the Week 11 loss to Tennessee. I’m not sure why the Titans didn’t deploy multiple tight ends as receivers more frequently.
4. Mike Vrabel punting on fourth-and-2 with 10 minutes left was baffling. Arguably worse was not giving Henry the ball on the two plays following his longest run of the day. Tennessee’s defense didn’t deserve such trust, but it wasn’t the first questionable decision from Vrabel against the Ravens this season.
5. That was the kind of showing from Marquise Brown the Ravens will need to continue this January run. He was a threat every time he touched the ball and made a good adjustment on the lateral throw deep in Baltimore territory. The 2019 first-round pick deserves much credit.
6. Knowing Tennessee would clog the middle of the field like in previous meetings, Greg Roman and Lamar Jackson did a good job deploying short passes to the outside. Patrick Ricard catching three passes on the opening touchdown drive of the second half after having nine receptions all year was something.
7. The entire front deserved credit for stuffing Henry, but Pernell McPhee registering six tackles on only 20 defensive snaps was a highlight. That defense missed his ability to set the edge after his triceps injury last season, so it’s been good to see him stay on the field.
8. If there was a concern to take from Sunday’s win, it was Jackson being sacked five times by a Tennessee defense that had only 19 sacks all year. Jackson held the ball too long at times, but you’d like to see cleaner protection against better defenses remaining in the postseason.
9. In addition to registering the Ravens’ only sack and tying McPhee for the lead in tackles, Derek Wolfe was called “one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen” by Harbaugh after the game. Bringing in a player who’s won a Super Bowl definitely brought additional value to his one-year contract.
10. Many have wanted to see Baltimore have more of an edge, so I had no problem with Calais Campbell jawing, players dancing on the Titans logo, Jackson not shaking hands, or Marlon Humphrey wearing the proverbial black hat. It’s just a shame these teams aren’t scheduled to play next season.
11. I was amused by anger over Ed Reed’s “win with class” tweet. While a 25-year-old Reed not far removed from his Miami days may have felt differently than the 42-year-old Hall of Famer, I’m not throwing shade on someone who won a lot more in January than the current team.
12. Many scoffed at Harbaugh saying, “This may be the best win I’ve ever been associated with.” The Super Bowl-winning coach sounded like a prisoner of the moment, but it speaks to the affinity he has for his 24-year-old quarterback and entire team breaking through after a trying season.