Titans give Collins second postseason shot at Ravens

Veteran QB Kerry Collins leads the Titans into Saturday's AFC Divisional Playoff Game at LP Field.
Really, there's no reason for the quarterback to relive the most miserable 60 minutes on a football field at the worst possible time. The Baltimore Ravens ripped him apart in winning that Super Bowl, sacking him four times and coming up with four interceptions.

Now eight years later, Collins finds himself two wins away from another chance at a Super Bowl title with the Tennessee Titans, and guess who's in his way once again? Those pesky Ravens.

The perfect chance at redemption, right?

"I'm not really thinking too much about the personal side of things," Collins said. "It's a big game for us. I want to win it. That's the bottom line."

Collins is a big reason the Titans (13-3) are hosting Saturday's AFC divisional playoff as the No. 1 seed. He entered the season opener when Vince Young sprained his knee, then went 12-3 as a starter. Collins exorcised some of his demons with Baltimore on Oct. 5 when he led the Titans to 10 fourth-quarter points in beating the Ravens 13-10.

"Kerry did a great job coming in managing a lot of football games, winning a lot by passing the ball or whatever he had to do, doing the things people said we couldn't do as an offense." Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said.

Collins threw for 2,676 yards with 12 touchdowns and only seven interceptions this season with an 80.2 passer rating that is the third highest of his career. He's looked nothing like the quarterback the Ravens harassed into a measly 7.1 passer rating in winning that Super Bowl 34-7.

"I didn't play very well," Collins said of that game. "Obviously, it was a tough day. We played a good defense and it was their year. Hats off to them."

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis isn't looking back either. He's more interested in being a step away from his second AFC championship game with a team that has won 10 of its last 12 and three straight.

"This defense is totally different. We've got a totally different mind-set. We're a totally different team than we were in 2000, and (there are) totally different people on their side, as well. Our job is to stay focused on the now. Yesterday is gone. Let's leave it there," Lewis said.

Baltimore didn't sack Collins, the quarterback not known for his legs, once in October. But Collins had regular center Kevin Mawae in front of him for that game. The All-Pro is out with an elbow injury now.

Overall, Collins is 2-2 against the Ravens, with only three touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

The Ravens did intercept Chad Pennington four times in their 27-9 wild-card win last Sunday, and that's what they hope to do to Collins.

"We respect the fact that he takes care of the football very well," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "It's been a big part of their success, and it's going to be a challenge for us."

Switching to Collins gave Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher a veteran who understands what he has around him. Fisher also likes Collins' composure in helping the Titans earn home-field advantage.

"It's certainly helped him this year in a lot of unusual situations that we faced throughout the season. He's poised and calm and doesn't get rattled. And he believes it's OK to throw the ball away and come back and fight again," Fisher said.

Collins credits experience. He turned 36 on Dec. 30, and he's with his fifth team in 14 seasons. He's a father now and happily married.

"You live and you learn. I've had eight years to live and learn. Hopefully, I'm better off than I was," he said.

So Collins may be focusing on the game and not thinking of the irony that this season's Super Bowl is in Tampa, site of his title loss. His teammates are happy to have a quarterback who has been there before on a franchise whose lone Super Bowl appearance came in 2000 with Steve McNair at quarterback. The Rams won that game 23-16 in Atlanta.

"It's great to have a quarterback that knows the way there and feel he has unfinished business because of the time that he has gotten there he didn't come out the victor," Bulluck said. "Hopefully, that fuels his fire. A lot of different things fuel a lot of people's fires in this room. We're all burning for the same thing."

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