NASHVILLE – The Titans lost to the Baltimore Ravens 20-13 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as players prepare to clean out their lockers on Monday for the start of the offseason.
The Titans won 11 games in 2020 in large part because of their offense. The Titans scored 30-plus points in 10 of the 16 games, and 40-plus points in five of the 16. But the Titans couldn't sustain their early success on Sunday, when they managed just 209 yards and 12 first downs, and a season-low 13 points. The Titans were just 4-of-12 on third down, and twice had to settle for field goals after nice drives. "We didn't move the ball and score enough points," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "Scored 10 points early. We knew this team could score coming in and had great respect for them. We knew it was going to take more. We just didn't get it done."
Titans running back Derrick Henry was a workhorse all season, evidenced by his ten 100-yard games, and his 2,027 rushing yards. But the Titans couldn't get Henry going on Sunday, as he finished with just 40 yards on 18 carries, a 2.2-yard average. The Ravens focused on slowing down Henry, and they did a good job. Henry, of course, blamed himself. But on most of his carries, he had nowhere to run. "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. Credit goes to those guys. They did a great job today for them to be able to win the game."
Five Sacks, and Better Defense
The Titans managed just 15 sacks in the first 15 games. Then came a four-sack game in the season finale in Houston, and then the five-sack game on Sunday against the Ravens. Harold Landry was credited with two sacks, and DaQuan Jones, Brooks Reed and Matt Dickerson all had sacks as well. A blitzing cornerback Adoree' Jackson just missed another one earlier in the game. The Titans showed some spunk on defense against the Ravens. In a win, these things might have been worth celebrating. But it wasn't easy to do following a game when Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 136 yards and a touchdown, while throwing for 179 yards and another score. "We told the guys to not focus on what happened at the beginning of the year or even the first 16 games," Jones said. "It's a whole new season and we could be who we wanted to be. I felt like for the most part today, we went out there and did our jobs to the best of our abilities. I'm happy and proud of the guys for doing that."
4th and 2 Punt
The most talked-about thing following Sunday's game wasn't a play, but a decision made by Titans Coach Mike Vrabel in the fourth quarter. With the Titans facing a 4th and 2 at the Baltimore 40 with 10:06 left, Vrabel elected to punt rather than go for a first down. Titans punter Brett Kern's ensuing punt was fielded at the 15-yard line, for a 25-yard net. The Ravens ended up driving for a field goal on that possession, and when the Titans got the ball back, Tannehill was intercepted. Vrabel was asked about the decision after the game. "Thought we were playing well defensively," Vrabel said. "Thought we would get a punt inside the 10 and be able to play the field position game. Had some time there that I felt like, you know, we could, and we held them to a field goal. It's just we were playing against a kicker there that kicks them from the 40. Becomes a field position battle, and I thought that we'd get a stop and hit them inside the ten. The way we were playing defensively, I was really proud of those guys. Obviously, Lamar (Jackson) had a fantastic day but I thought we were dialed in. I enjoyed watching those guys play defense."
Titans receiver A.J. Brown had more receiving yards (83) against the Ravens than he did in the three playoff games (64) a year ago combined. Brown came out ready to play on Sunday, with 53 yards on the team's first drive, which included a 10-yard touchdown catch. But as Tennessee's offense sputtered late, Brown was kept in check for the most part. Meanwhile, receiver Corey Davis was quiet for the second straight week, and his absence down the stretch stood out. On the team's final drive, Davis stood on the sideline without his helmet. Vrabel gave this explanation when asked about Davis, who didn't have a catch: "I mean, obviously he wasn't able to go," Vrabel said.
End of 2020
Sunday's loss marked the end of yet another Titans season, my 22nd covering the franchise. One thing I learned early on: Teams change a good bit from year to year. A lot of players on the 2020 team won't be back in 2021. This year's team accomplished some special things, from winning the AFC South to Henry running for 2K. But next year's team will have to start over, with plenty of new faces. Brown, who is just 23 years old, thought about that before leaving the locker room on Sunday. "I was just thinking about that at my locker," Brown said after the game. "It is going to be a whole different team. It's going to be different. It's going to be different next year. We have got to come back. We have got to prepare. We have got to do what we need to do to come back. Come back and be the best players we can be to help the team. The Tennessee Titans will be back. We will be playing for a Super Bowl."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)