The Baltimore Ravens solidified themselves among the AFC’s best on Sunday with a dominating win over the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee’s prior performances indicated that the team would have put up a fight. At the very least, Tennessee’s defense should have given formidable opposition to Baltimore’s offense. However, this was not the case. The Ravens took advantage of what the Titans presented, highlighting key areas in which the Ravens are superior. While many knew that the Ravens were the better team, it took Sunday’s performance to understand where the Ravens and Titans each fall on the grand scale of NFL tiers. The Ravens are a top tier team in a top-tier division, while the Titans are a mediocre team leading a mediocre division.
The Baltimore Ravens offense was determined to correct the mistakes of last week. Against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens suffered greatly from dropped passes and unfinished drives. The first offensive drive aimed to prevent both of these situations early. Joe Flacco immediately targeted the wide receiver, Michael Crabtree. Crabtree, who dropped a plethora of passes, including a would-be game-winning touchdown grab, against the Browns. Crabtree caught three passes on the drive, including the touchdown grab. That scoring drive not only gave the Ravens the early lead but proved that the Ravens would no longer fall victim to stalled drives.
It was a long drive, to say the least. The attack drove 89 yards over the course of nine minutes and nine seconds. Long drives were the theme of the day for the Ravens. On a touchdown drive that came in the third quarter, the Ravens again managed to again burn almost half the quarter. The Ravens scored three touchdowns on three drives. Three scores for the entire game is usually not a celebrated statistic, but in this scenario, it is. Because the Ravens managed to burn the clock so effectively, Baltimore only had the ball eight times. Baltimore scored on 37.5% of all drives. Removing the final clock grinding drive from the sample size, the Ravens drive efficiency boosts to 42.9%.
This new found ability to magically slice the clock in half would have been useless to the Ravens if not paired with a dominant defensive performance. The defense repeatedly killed drives throughout the game. The defense put on a masterclass on Sunday, showcasing why the unit is the best in football. The unit completely dismantled every aspect of the Titans offensive attack. The Ravens covered everything so well that Derrick Henry found no success running the ball, and Marcus Mariota found no success passing it. The Titans were held to just 55 rushing yards and Mariota to 117 passing yards.
The center point of the Ravens defensive attack focused around the pass rush. Marcus Mariota was under siege throughout the game, from the first drive to the last one. The outstanding performance set a franchise record with 11 sacks in the game, just one short of tying the NFL record. Za’Darius Smith led the unit with three sacks and many more pressures on Mariota. The sacks were crucial, as they often ended drives for the Titans. The combinations of great coverage on both running and passing plays, and the domination of the pass rush allowed for the Ravens to hold the Titans to zero points throughout the game, a feat not accomplished easily, but seems to be a common feature of the Ravens defense.
The productivity of the offense and defense allowed the Ravens to derail the Titans in all aspects. This also gave the Ravens a great luxury. The running game, which has yet to produce this season, continued to struggle against the Titans. In last year’s offense, the Ravens would need to rely on Alex Collins and the running attack to drive the offense, but with Joe Flacco’s passing prowess and the protection of the lead by the defense, the Ravens could put the ground game on the backburner. While Collins continued to struggle, the Ravens did see a running back that impressed them. The rookie Gus Edwards, in his first NFL game, ran efficiently, up the middle, for consistent gains. The Ravens featured him on 10 carries. Baltimore will likely continue to utilize him throughout the season, especially in short-yardage situations.