How the Titans pulled the stunner to beat Lamar Jackson, and what’s next – Tennessee Titans Blog


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans faced the ultimate test when they took on the Baltimore Ravens‘ high-powered offense led by MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson in the divisional round of the playoffs Saturday. They did what few other teams could: They passed.

It wouldn’t be right to say the Titans stopped Jackson, because he accounted for 508 yards of total offense. The significant accomplishment was minimizing the explosive plays that Jackson has made a habit of creating that lead to touchdowns.

“They weren’t doing anything spectacular out there — nothing we’ve never seen before,” Jackson said.

How did Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees frustrate the Ravens’ offense and help punch the Titans’ ticket to the AFC Championship Game?

Force Jackson to move laterally

The Titans wanted to make Jackson run from sideline to sideline rather than get upfield and pick up chunks of yards. They collapsed the interior and rushed with discipline on the outside to minimize escape lanes for Jackson.

“We saw when he [Jackson] gained yards he was getting them between the hashes and the numbers. We defended from number to number and made him go laterally. There weren’t big plays,” coach Mike Vrabel said after the game.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro said the goal was to string Jackson out toward the sideline to keep him from making spin moves or sudden cuts to make defenders miss. In essence, they cut down the space Jackson had to work with and used the sideline as an extra defender. Pees dialed up stunts and twists up front, resulting in sacks by defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and former Raven Kamalei Correa.

The defensive backs were physical with the receivers at the top of their routes, which helped disrupt the timing and forced Jackson to move around while the defensive front closed in on its target. The safeties — primarily Kevin Byard — played top-down coverage to minimize the deep passes Jackson found success with during the regular season.

Jumping to an early lead

Another key for the defense was securing the early 14-0 lead. Both touchdowns came off turnovers, causing Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman to get away from running the football. Jackson attempted 59 passes against the Titans after attempting 40 passes just once during the regular season.

“They forced us out of our comfort zone a little bit,” Ravens receiver Miles Boykin said. “We really haven’t played a lot from behind. We got down by two touchdowns, and it was kind of hard for us to fight back into the game and stick to our play.”

Roman used the rushing attack to generate explosive plays on the ground and in the air via play-action passes during the regular season. The Ravens ran the ball only 29 times on Saturday with some coming from Jackson scrambling. That’s a far cry from the Baltimore attack that averaged 206 rushing yards per game and 37.1 attempts, both league highs. The early lead made Roman’s playcalling one dimensional and allowed Pees to focus on stopping the pass by using packages that featured more defensive backs.

Fourth-down struggles and turnovers

A critical moment came early in the game, when Byard intercepted a Jackson pass that bounced off the hands of Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, which set up Jonnu Smith‘s fantastic one-handed touchdown reception to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead.

Source : ESPN