Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan gives fans a behind the scenes look into the team’s plan to stop Lamar Jackson and the high-powered Baltimore Ravens offense.
The Tennessee Titans did something no other defense did to the Baltimore Ravens this season: they stopped Lamar Jackson.
Jackson and the Ravens had not been held to under 20 points all season and the mighty Titans defense was able to limit them to 12 points on Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
A huge key for the Titans was the masterful defensive game plan designed by defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
Pees coached the Ravens defense for eight seasons before leaving for the Titans. Underplayed prior to the matchup against the Ravens was the knowledge that Pees had of both Greg Roman and John Harbaugh.
"“We wanted to give him loaded boxes all night to get him out of the run game. We were either playing with a loaded box and man to man and make him beat us throwing the ball outside mano-a-mano or we were going to play a zone defense, a quarters defense similar to what Buffalo did. And Buffalo played them well. Buffalo just didn’t score a lot of points on offense. So we had eight-, nine-man boxes all night. You play Madden and run Engage Eight all day, it’s hard to run the ball.”"
There is a lot to unpack in Ryan’s statement. It was clear that the Titans’ strategy was to limit the Ravens run game and force Jackson to beat them through the air.
The Ravens ended the season as the most productive running game in NFL history, averaging just over 200 yards per game on the ground.
When you load the box, you generally need to play man coverage on the outside. Luckily for the Titans, they matched up really well against Marquise Brown and Willie Snead. Ryan and Adoree’ Jackson continued to break up passes and limit the outside receivers all night long. On the inside of the field, Rashaan Evans and David Long were crucial in shutting down the tight ends.
It’s interesting that Ryan mentions the Buffalo Bills, who played the Ravens in Week 14 and lost, 24-17. The Bills held the Ravens to 118 yards rushing, and held Jackson to 40 yards.
Despite the loss, it’s clear that the Titans were watching and took some notes. Much credit needs to be given to Pees, Vrabel, and the defensive coaching staff to dig up tape and study other games.
The Titans packed the box, like Ryan said, and took the primary ball carrier out of the game entirely. Mark Ingram who was dealing with a calf injury coming into the game, was held to just 22 yards. The Titans keyed in on stopping Ingram and made the Ravens offense run only through Jackson.
As I wrote last week, the three key players would need to be Evans, Adoree’, and Kevin Byard for the Titans to win. All three had possibly their best games of the season. In addition, Long, Kenny Vaccaro, and Ryan also played shut down defense while Kamalei Correa, Harold Landry and the defensive line (especially Jurrell Casey) harassed Jackson all night long.
This was the best defensive game the Titans had all season and it was a total team effort.
Props to Ryan for making the game relatable to all of us football fans by using the classic Madden example. Jackson became a real life Madden cheat code this year and the Titans found their own counter to stop him.
The Titans will need to continue their top-notch defensive performance in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.