Titans, Ravens refocus after tough losses
The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans are in the same boat this week. Both will be trying to bounce back from disappointing losses when they meet Sunday in Baltimore.
The Titans (3-2) appeared to be in prime position for a 4-1 start before falling flat in a 13-12 loss at Buffalo to the Bills last Sunday.
The Ravens (3-2) were as deficient on offense as the Titans, failing to score a touchdown in their 12-9 overtime loss on the road to the Cleveland Browns.
After starting the season 13 of 13 in the red zone, the Ravens haven't scored a touchdown since the first quarter of Week 4 in Pittsburgh -- the NFL's longest active streak.
Baltimore also allowed 342 yards passing and a touchdown to Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. A breakdown in the secondary led to a long play downfield in overtime, setting up the game-winning, 37-yard field goal by Greg Joseph with two seconds remaining.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the key this week will be containing Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of their playmakers.
"We just have to play good defense," Harbaugh said. "Tennessee has a very good offense. They have very good players. They have a quarterback that's a pass and a run quarterback, (and) creates a problem for you."
The Ravens' offense will be going against a Titans defense ranked sixth overall in the NFL and led by former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who retired in January but came back a month later to join new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel's staff.
"Compared to other teams, I'm sure it'll be a little bit familiar," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said about facing Pees. "But having said that, they have different players. Defensive coordinators do a really good job of game-planning for individual teams and also game-planning in ways that set up to the strengths of their individual players.
"Even though some of the looks will all look very familiar, there are going to be different guys over there, and we'll see what they want to do against us."
Harbaugh isn't worried about Pees' familiarity with his team and schemes.
"It's more unusual than the average game. You don't have that every week," Harbaugh said. 'Does it give the Titans any strategic advantage?' I don't know. We'll find out. I mean, we'll find out. It is what it is. It's not worth one second of (analyzing) who has the advantage. It would be a waste of time."
The Ravens are struggling to develop an effective running game. As a result, Harbaugh might rotate players to find a spark.
Alex Collins entered the season as the starter, but he ranks 27th in the league with 217 yards on 57 carries and has two fumbles. Rookie De'Lance Turner also appears to be playing his way into the rotation.
"We need to spread the load," Harbaugh said. "You want fresh guys out there playing hard."
The Titans are hoping to keep the Ravens from establishing their offense with a defense anticipating the return of linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who missed last week's game. He had 14 tackles when the teams met last November.
"I'm hopeful and never stand up here -- I don't want to say never -- and use any excuses for injuries and that's just really where we don't want to go," Vrabel said. So we'll get him back when we can get him back, and we can't wait to get him back, but we have to get the guys ready to play who will be there and hopefully we see where he's at."
Like the Ravens, the Titans could use a spark on offense. Mariota ran just twice last Sunday against Buffalo for 10 yards after running 10 times for 46 yards the week before against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mariota completed 14 of 26 passes for 129 yards with an interception -- one of three turnovers in the game for the Titans.
"We can't turn the ball over as an offense," Mariota said. "The defense played great -- they've played outstanding through the year. We have to do a better job of playing complementary football.
"It is the nature of the beast, man. This is the business we play. If you are not ready to play, it doesn't matter who you are playing, you are not going to be able to put forth your best effort and (you will) ultimately lose the game."
Updated October 10, 2018