Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh on the 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans and the performance of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Was the Ravens’ stunning 28-12 loss at the hands of the Tennessee Titans a result of the “rust” on quarterback Lamar Jackson or the “inside out” defense the Titans designed to force Jackson to run and pass toward the sidelines, the weakest part of his game?

Or, maybe, it was simply the fact that running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 195 yards and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass, was too much for Baltimore to handle.


CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle and analyst Dan Fouts offered all three explanations and a few more in trying to help viewers understand what the Titans were doing Saturday night to so dominate the heavily favored Ravens. And if it seemed as if the announcers weren’t exactly sure how it happened, let’s be fair: The Ravens coaching staff didn’t seem to understand what was happening on the field at M&T Bank Stadium either.

To his credit, Fouts did offer the “inside out” explanation fairly early in the game with 1:50 left in the first quarter and the Titans ahead 7-0.

“Part of the game plan for Tennessee is to play the game inside out,” Fouts said. “By that I mean take away the tight ends, make Jackson throw the ball deep and to the outside. And when he runs the option, force him to bounce it all the way to the sideline, and not give him those spectacular runs we’re so accustomed to right up the hash marks.”

Later in the second half, Fouts reiterated that explanation and the producers had replay footage to illustrate what the analyst was saying.

To some extent, that’s textbook TV analysis, with Fouts going beyond the jargon of “inside out" to say, “by that I mean,” and then explaining it.

But he and Eagle were also riding the “rust” and being “a little out of sync” explanation most of the night, too. And they totally fell in love with Henry by the end of the game. But why not after the effort he turned in?

Maybe they meant the Ravens’ poor performance was a combination of all of the above, and it certainly could have taken failures in several areas by the Ravens and their coaches to account for such a decisive loss.

Overall, CBS came ready to play Saturday.

The “NFL Today” studio show was elevated by the announcement of panelist and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was an emotional moment for Cowher and some of his colleagues on the show, particularly host James Brown.

And, hey, Nate Burleson, one of the other panelists, did pick the Titans to beat the Ravens, making him one of the only analysts in the world to do so.

I liked the way the cameras were used inside the tunnels at M&T Bank Stadium as the players waited to take the field. I loved the energy and sense of anticipation they captured before kickoff.

Eagle and Fouts are not my favorite NFL announcing team, but they brought their "A" game to the playoffs. I was especially impressed in the first quarter with the way they accelerated the tempo of their talk.

On a bad day or late in some games, the tempo of their play-by-play and commentary can slow down to the point where you start to notice the silences. There was none of that. Eagle would finish with a fact or statistic, and Fouts would immediately jump in with a point of analysis or commentary. And best of all, they were addressing it to the viewer, not talking to each other. I hate it when Fouts starts talking to Eagle like they are two guys in a restaurant or bar.

CBS also made good use of rules analyst Gene Steratore. He was clear and sure in his calls, starting with the catch by Jonnu Smith to give the Titans their first touchdown. He even explained the way slow motion can distort what’s being seen.


CBS Sports rose to playoff level Saturday night even with its second-string crew. Too bad the Ravens didn’t with all their Pro Bowl players.