NASHVILLE – The first home playoff game since the 2008 season ended in disappointment on Sunday.
And, in the process, so did the 2020 season for the Tennessee Titans.
After a fast start, the Titans limped to the finish in a 20-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in a Wild Card playoff contest before 14,029 fans at Nissan Stadium.
"My disappointment is obviously for the players, who put so much into it, that are beat up and playing this game at far less than 100 percent, that battle and compete on the field," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "I am disappointed for them. You don't like to see the people that you care about frustrated or disappointed, and certainly we all are."
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 18-of-26 passes for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the contest.
Titans running back Derrick Henry, who ran for 2,027 yards during the regular season, managed just 40 yards on 18 carries.
The Titans sacked Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson five times in the contest, but it wasn't enough. Jackson ran for 136 yards and a score and he celebrated in the end as the Titans were left thinking about what could have been.
The Titans finished the regular season with a record of 11-5 and won the AFC South for the first time since the 2008 season.
"This definitely is going to sting," Henry said. "It will probably be on my mind for the rest of this year, until we suit back up. We accomplished a lot as a team this during these difficult times. I'll never forget all the things we accomplished, but we came up short. We have to get back to work – I know that's what I am going to do.
"The Ravens were the better team today, and they got the best of us. Baltimore was the better team."
The Titans averaged 30.7 yards a game on offense during the regular season, but they scored a season-low 13 points while managing just 209 yards and 12 first downs against a Ravens team they beat 30-24 in the regular season, and 28-12 in last year's playoffs.
"It is a huge disappointment," Tannehill said. "It is tough to put into words right now, because you are not prepared for this moment. Everything in my heart, in my soul, told me we were going to go win this game. So, the finality of it is real – I don't think we were prepared to be in this position. But here we are, and it's tough.
"I love the guys in this locker room, that are a part of this organization. And no team back-to-back years is ever the same. We'll see what happens. But I am definitely appreciative of my time with every guy in that locker room and what they gave to this team, and organization. Guys bought in and gave their heart and soul to it. It wasn't for a lack of effort, or trying, or buying in. I respect all those guys and enjoyed every moment with them."
Things look good early.
The Titans took a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to receiver A.J. Brown, which capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive. Brown, who had six catches for 83 yards in the game, was big early, with three catches for 52 yards on the opening drive.
The Titans got the ball back shortly after on an interception by cornerback Malcolm Buter. Minutes later, the Titans stretched their lead to 10-0 on a 45-yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
But the Ravens tied it at 10-10 after Jackson's 48-yard touchdown run followed a 33-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker, and that was the score at halftime.
Then, at the start of third quarter, the Ravens took a 17-10 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by running back J.K. Dobbins.
The Titans cut the lead to 17-13 on another field goal from Gostkowski, this one from 25 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Later, Tucker made a 51-yard field goal to give Baltimore a 20-13 with 4:19 left.
The Titans squandered a number of chances during the game.
Tannehill was intercepted with 1:50 left in the contest, and the Titans never got the ball back.
"It is tough – we lost. And it hurts," defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. "I like to compete, and it sucks losing, not just for us, but for Nashville. We've been through much as community, as a state, and just not being able to win, not just for us, but for Tennessee, it hurts more.
"But it doesn't stop here. We have a great team, a great locker room. … We had a long season, from dealing with COVID, all the way up until now. I am proud of this team. We didn't get to our goal. It hurts not getting this win … but now we have to build and get back and past this point next year."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)