Game 2: Ravens fall flat in 26-13 loss to Titans

NASHVILLE — Joe Flacco rolled to his right and found no open receiver, so he turned around and ran back to the left. With no better options visible there, Flacco pivoted and finally threw the ball away just before being leveled by Tennessee Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan.

That third-quarter sequence symbolized a discouraging day for the fourth-year quarterback and the Ravens, who spent much of a 26-13 loss at LP Field running in circles and trying to either evade or catch a fired-up Titans team.


From Flacco's two interceptions to the offensive line's struggles to open up holes for Ray Rice to the secondary's inability to contain Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, the Ravens were outplayed in every facet in a disappointing follow-up to their dominance of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 .

"They beat us by winning in every way you can beat a football team," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We didn't play as well. I don't have any theory right now. Everybody is going to have a theory, and none of them are going to be right. There were a lot of things that were a part of it."


The Ravens (1-1) were outgained 432 to 229. They committed three turnovers to the Titans' one, and they didn't register one sack of veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who got the ball out early and often on his way to completing 30 of 42 passes for 358 yards.

They did reach their stated No. 1 goal of controlling star running back Chris Johnson, who ran for just 53 yards on 24 carries. However, Johnson's backup, Javon Ringer, took a pitch from Hasselbeck on fourth-and-1 and scored untouched from 10 yards out early in the third quarter to give the Titans a 17-10 lead.

Tennessee (1-1) was never threatened from there as the Ravens lost to a sub-.500 team for just the second time in 20 games in the Harbaugh era. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Titans gave their new coach, Mike Munchak, a Gatorade shower to commemorate his first victory as coach.

The Ravens, meanwhile, trudged off the field, the momentum they gained from their near flawless season-opening blowout of the Steelers washed away.

"The other team came ready to play, and we didn't," said Rice, who rushed for 43 yards on 13 carries and scored the Ravens' lone touchdown on a nifty 31-yard catch-and-run of a screen pass from Flacco with 4:49 left in the second quarter. "I'm not going to make any excuse. Our team is not going to make any excuse. They were the better team today."

The performance spurred the expected questions about whether the Ravens, who were outscored 16-3 in the second half, suffered from a letdown.

"What we did in Week 1, we didn't do this week. It's pretty simple," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was active throughout and got the Ravens' lone turnover, intercepting a pass from Hasselbeck that Haloti Ngata had deflected early in the first quarter. "We're a great team. We ain't even worried about it. We knew we weren't going to go undefeated. That's the only thing that this week really confirms. We're going to come back next week and we're going to be great."

Still, the Ravens certainly renewed some concerns that were present before the Steelers game. Flacco, who abused Pittsburgh for 224 yards and three touchdowns, went just 15-for-32 for 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Flacco looked completely out of sync from the outset; his quarterback rating at the end of the first quarter was zero. He completed nearly a quarter of his passes during the Ravens' one scoring drive.

His interception in the first quarter came on a route by Lee Evans that Alterraun Verner undercut easily. His second one, on the third play of the fourth quarter, was on a ball that he tried to fit into tight coverage of tight end Ed Dickson. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan tipped it to Jason McCourty, who returned the ball to the Ravens' 26.

Four plays later, Rob Bironas kicked a 39-yard field goal that gave Tennessee a 23-10 lead.

"Obviously, we didn't do too many things that helped us out there. We didn't convert," Flacco said. "We didn't really keep ourselves on the field for a very long time. We hurt ourselves with a couple of penalties. We turned the ball over. All things that aren't really a good recipe for winning football games."

Asked specifically about Flacco, Harbaugh said: "I think everyone didn't play well, and that's the bottom line. So you can go all the way down the roster. Every single guy didn't, and every single coach, none of us. We win as a team, we lose as a team. I'm not going to sit here and nitpick one guy or another guy."


There certainly was plenty of blame to go around. The offensive line, which was without guard Ben Grubbs (toe), allowed three sacks and gave Rice very little room. Marshal Yanda and Matt Birk made good blocks on Rice's touchdown, but those were more the exception than the norm.

Overall, the Ravens went just 3-for-10 on third downs, while the Titans were 7-for-17. Most of those conversions were on short passes as the Titans used a short passing attack led by Hasselbeck instead of relying on Johnson.

Britt, the decisive winner in his matchups against cornerback Cary Williams, caught nine passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Washington caught seven balls for 99 yards.

On the Titans' nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just before halftime, Britt caught three passes for 18 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown on which he outmuscled Domonique Foxworth. Washington caught two passes for 19 yards, and tight end Jared Cook made the biggest play with a diving 33-yard reception past safety Ed Reed.

"That was a huge confidence builder," Munchak said of the drive. "Coming out in the second half, we do the same thing. I think that showed you what we are all about. We took it from there. Then it became a complete game. Then all phases, we were playing."

Kicker Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field goal, set up by David Reed's 77-yard kickoff return, tied the game at 10 as time expired in the first half. However, the Titans took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 75 yards on eight plays to take the 17-10 lead.

Ringer's touchdown on fourth down came on a well-executed misdirection play, as Hasselbeck pitched to him and Ringer found nothing but open space.

Following another punt by Sam Koch, the Titans ended a 12-play, 65-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal by Bironas, making it a 20-10 game after three quarters. The Ravens cut their deficit to 10 on Cundiff's 29-yard field goal, but the Titans then embarked on a 14-play, 66-yard drive that ate 6:32 on the clock and completely ended any hopes of another fourth-quarter Ravens comeback in Tennessee.

"That's the thing I've always liked about our team. We've always bounced back," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We go through what we go through, we go back and make corrections. None of us came and said, 'Let's go 16-0.' You let everybody put you where they're going to put you, or rate you where they're going to rate you. But the bottom line is if you're OK with the journey, then you're OK with going through ups and downs."


Recommended on Baltimore Sun