Lamar Jackson rewrites playoff narrative as Ravens beat Titans in Wild Card Round

by 24USATVJan. 11, 2021, 9 a.m. 22
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On consecutive possessions, he led a 12-play march that culminated with a field goal, then an 82-yard drive that ended with him slicing through the Titans' defense on a 48-yard run that was as much an exclamation point as it was a touchdown. The sprint tied the score late in the second quarter and served notice that these Ravens are different from some in the past. They had so many chances to blink or buckle this season, whether it was three consecutive losses and four defeats in five games midway through the season, or the COVID-19 outbreak that served as a revolving door to their locker room, ushering players in and out.

The ability to overcome those things, as well as an early deficit against an opponent that has had its way against them in recent outings, was at the forefront of coach John Harbaugh's mind afterward. Typically Harbaugh stiff-arms comparisons about past teams or plays or players, but on Sunday, he stepped outside his comfort zone and called Jackson's touchdown run the best he's ever seen by a quarterback, then described the game as his "best win ever." Mind you, Harbaugh has 140 career victories, 11 of which have come in the playoffs, including one in the Super Bowl.

"It had so much meaning," Harbaugh said, "for our guys and for us together. The things that we've been through together this year and how our guys have responded, how our leaders have led and how our guys have stuck together. All the things that really matter, all the things that aren't always counted on the scoreboard, but are counted in life, that you remember for the rest of your life."

The Ravens took a lead they would not relinquish to start the second half, going 77 yards in 10 plays. Jackson was at the wheel, completing each of his four pass attempts while rushing for 34 yards on four carries. He gained 23 yards on a third-and-2 rush, then found his fullback for 9 yards on another third-and-2. J.K. Dobbins culminated the march with a 4-yard TD run to make it 17-10.

Tennessee could manage only a field goal on its final six possessions (and three quarters). Normally reliant on running back Derrick Henry, who won his second consecutive rushing title this season and became just the eighth back in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a season, they could not get him going. He finished with just 40 yards on 18 carries, which was the second-lowest postseason output of his career. In his previous two games against the Ravens, he rushed for 195 and 133 yards.

"They had a plan, and they executed their plan," Henry said. "All the credit goes to those guys, you know, of stopping the run. The last two times we had success and they had a plan to make sure we didn't have success, and that's what they did."

On any other occasion, Baltimore's defense would be the story. It shut down a Titans squad that had scored at least 30 points in 10 games this season, reaching 40 or more on five occasions. It held Tennessee to a season-low 13 points and just 209 yards and 12 first downs.

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