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The Baltimore Sun

'IT IS OUR TIME'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Inspired by a huge play on special teams, anotherstifling defensive effort and a timely video display, the Ravens knocked offthe No. 1-seeded Tennessee Titans in an American Football Conferencedivisional playoff yesterday, 24-10.

The upset sends the Ravens into Sunday's AFC championship -- one game shyof Super Bowl XXXV -- against the second-seeded Oakland Raiders at NetworkAssociates Coliseum.

The Ravens (14-4) are trying to become the third No. 4 seed to reach theSuper Bowl in four years, joining the Titans (1999) and Denver Broncos (1997).

"I can't gauge our chances," said Ravens owner Art Modell, "but I knowwe're going out to play a tough team."

In front of a record Adelphia Coliseum crowd of 68,527, the Ravens broke a10-10, fourth-quarter tie with a pair of improbable touchdowns.

Anthony Mitchell, a first-year special teams player, delivered the firstwhen he returned a tipped field goal attempt by the Titans' Al Del Greco for a90-yard touchdown. The kick was blocked by defensive lineman Keith Washington,his second deflection against Del Greco on the day.

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the NFL's defensive player of the year,supplied the clinching touchdown less than six minutes later when heintercepted a pass by Steve McNair and returned it 50 yards. It was the firsttouchdown of Lewis' five-year NFL career.

That exciting conclusion to a torrid AFC Central Division rivalry earnedBaltimore's first appearance in the AFC championship game since 1971, when theColts lost, 21-0, to the Miami Dolphins.

"It's a long time coming, but I feel like it is our time," said Ravensdefensive end Rob Burnett. "Every dog has his day, so to speak. Or every birdhas his day would be a better way to put it."

It will be the first championship game for Modell since his 1989 ClevelandBrowns were beaten by the Broncos.

The Ravens won for the second straight time at Adelphia Coliseum, the onlytwo losses suffered by the Titans there in two years.

A pre-game video galvanized the Ravens and backfired on the Titans.

As the teams prepared for the opening kickoff, the Titans' video boardshowed Ravens coach Brian Billick making several statements about the Titans.None was inflammatory or derogatory, but the Ravens became incensed at theobvious motivational ploy.

"It kind of fed into our game plan," said quarterback Trent Dilfer. "Wewanted this game to be a fistfight. We didn't want flash and glitz. We wantedthis to be a straight-out street brawl.

"When they did that, that's what it became. You saw smiles on our sideline,because everybody recognized this is going to be a fistfight, this is going tobe a brawl. This is old-school, 1940s football, and we feel very comfortablewith that style."

Billick said the video was "totally classless" and emphasized that he hadsaid only complimentary things about the Titans last week. "It was a greatmotivator," he said. "I went up and down that sideline and said, `Guys, you'vegot to back me up.' Every single one of them came and hugged me after thegame. They said, `Coach, we've got your backside.' "

Billick exonerated Titans coach Jeff Fisher, general manager Floyd Reeseand President Jeff Diamond from blame in the affair.

"I've known them for years, and they're class guys," Billick said. "There'sno way anyone could ever convince me that they know about that. I'll be very,very surprised if they're not upset about that as much as I am."

Fisher's response: "They went down 7-0. I don't think the video hadanything to do with it. It wasn't my video."

The Ravens fell behind 7-0 when Tennessee (13-4) drove 68 yards on itsfirst possession. They spent the rest of the day keeping the Titans out of theend zone.

Tennessee had four possessions inside the Ravens' 20, but scored only 10points from those opportunities. Del Greco, who missed a potentialgame-winning, 43-yard field goal in a Nov. 12 loss to the Ravens, sufferedblocks of 45- and 37-yard tries, and hit the left upright on a 31-yardattempt.

Baltimore's offense managed just one red zone penetration, and came awaywith a 1-yard touchdown run by Jamal Lewis. That came one play after a 56-yardpass from Dilfer to tight end Shannon Sharpe in the second quarter.

The Ravens won despite being outgained, 317-134, in total yards, and 23-6in first downs.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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