Titans find themselves in rematch of 2000 playoff

Veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck will play the Ravens for the third time in the playoffs during his career.
That was the season Tennessee posted the NFL's best record at 13-3 and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed with home-field advantage - just like this year. Tampa is hosting the Super Bowl, just like in 2000. And the Baltimore Ravens added to the deja vu feeling Sunday by beating Miami 27-9 to earn a trip to Music City for an AFC divisional playoff game next Saturday.

The Ravens won that 2000 divisional playoff game 24-10 en route to their Super Bowl championship. The Titans? Well, they are targeting an eventual trip to Tampa, too, in what will be a rematch of a 13-10 win over the Ravens in Baltimore on Oct. 5.
"Now that we know our opponent, we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement Sunday. "Baltimore has improved in all areas since we saw them earlier this season. They are built around a strong run game and a great defense, which reminds us of the classic matchups against them in the past."

This won't be the first time these teams have met in the playoffs since that divisional showdown. Tennessee went to Baltimore for a wild-card game in the 2003 season and beat the Ravens on their field 20-17, a win that provided some small redemption for Steve McNair and Eddie George.

While the Ravens still feature key players from that 2000 playoff win in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Baltimore now has ex-Titans cornerback Samari Rolle, receiver Derrick Mason and fullback Lorenzo Neal on its side.

The only Titans still in Tennessee who played in that painful loss are punter Craig Hentrich, defensive end Jevon Kearse in his second stint with the team, and linebacker Keith Bulluck. The linebacker was a rookie then and played only special teams, in goal-line situations and in extra linebacker packages.

Before knowing they would play Baltimore, Bulluck said he's sure the Titans will talk about how much work they've put in to get to this point.

"These opportunities don't come across too often, so we'll definitely get that point across," Bulluck said.

"Right now we've really got to look at it as a three-game season for us. We take one game at a time. Most games that we can play in this season are three. The approach that we have to take is very serious, and plus, it's not too often you get to this point. The 2003 season, we went to the AFC championship. Albert and myself, we haven't been back since."

That would be Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who missed the final two games of the regular season with a sprained left knee. Fisher said during halftime of the Ravens' win over Miami that Haynesworth and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who missed the last three games with an injured groin, would practice this week.

That will provide a big boost to a Titans defense that ranked second in the NFL in fewest points allowed. The Titans are scheduled to return Monday from a weekend off and practice Tuesday.

Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae will be the big question for the Titans. He hurt his right elbow late in the Titans' 31-14 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 21, sat out the finale at Indianapolis and did not practice during the team's bye week. He will be a key against the Ravens in helping protect quarterback Kerry Collins.

"He may be questionable going into this game ... probably be day to day with him," Fisher said.

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