TD returns of field goal, interception in 4th lift Ravens to AFC final; Defense backs up tough talk; Lone NFL road victor shows little offense; 'all we produce is wins'
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - What appears to be smoke and mirrors is actually the Ravens' defense and special teams.
What the Tennessee Titans perceived as arrogance was little more than a jaunty display of Ravens confidence.
After talking up a storm last week, the Ravens became the first road winner of the NFL's postseason when they bounced the No. 1-seeded Titans in the AFC divisional round, 24-10, at Adelphia Coliseum yesterday.
They will advance to the AFC championship game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum.
The fourth-seeded Ravens will fly west on the wings of their defense and special teams. Baltimore's offense appears to be along for the ride after producing just 134 total yards and an NFL playoff record-low-tying six first downs here.
"Just wins, that's all we produce is wins," said Shannon Sharpe, the Ravens' loquacious tight end. "We don't score 30 points. We don't have a receiver that can go get 180 yards, 200 yards. We don't have a quarterback that's going to throw for 350.
"But I'll tell you what we do have: a team that's going to go to the AFC championship. All those big-time offenses, you know where they're at? Watching us."
For that, Sharpe can thank a special teams unit that blocked two Tennessee field-goal attempts - returning one for the go-ahead touchdown - and a defense that cashed in its only turnover for a touchdown.
A 90-yard touchdown return by Anthony Mitchell, after Keith Washington's second deflection of an Al Del Greco field-goal try, broke a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter.
A 50-yard touchdown return with an intercepted pass by middle linebacker Ray Lewis was the coup de grace. It made the Titans the AFC's sixth No. 1 seed in the past seven years to fall short of the Super Bowl.
The Ravens won yesterday despite two punts by Kyle Richardson being blocked, despite quarterback Trent Dilfer's completing five of 16 passes, despite being outgained 317-134 in total yards.
Over the past three games, counting the regular-season finale, the Ravens' defense and special teams have combined to score five touchdowns - as many touchdowns as the offense has scored in the same period.
Ravens coach Brian Billick wasn't about to apologize for a formula that threatens to put Baltimore in the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl V in 1971.
"Have we turned the ball over? Did we make a couple of big plays?" Billick said rhetorically. "That's evidently the way it is around here.
"Do I wish it were different? Yeah. Are we going to work to make it different? At some point. But, right now, that's us. I'm not going to hide from it. I can't deny it.
"We've got to get better on offense, but everybody keeps saying you can't last, this can't last, you can't win like this."
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