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Ravens edge Titans to secure Lamar Jackson's first-career playoff win

Lamar Jackson can finally celebrate in the postseason after leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Super Wild Card Weekend. The Ravens defense held off the Titans in the final two minutes after Marcus Peters intercepted Ryan Tannehill, and Baltimore proceeded to run out the remaining 1:50 on the clock with two clutch first downs. Jackson, who earned his first playoff win in three tries, overcame a 10-point first-half deficit and prompted the comeback with an explosive 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Titans were held to their lowest point total of the season and the NFL's rushing leader, Derrick Henry, was held to a season-low 40 yards rushing.

1) The legend of Lamar Jackson grows with the addition of his first playoff win. Jackson no longer has to hear about his early postseason exits after taking down Tennessee in a fashion that was vastly different than their last playoff meeting a year ago, joining Dan Marino and Patrick Mahomes as the only players in NFL history to have a league MVP and a playoff win under their belt by the end of their age-23 season, per NFL Research. Jackson powered Baltimore's offense, rushing 16 times for 136 yards and a momentum-swinging touchdown to tie the game just before halftime. His presence made Baltimore significantly harder to defend, and even though Tennessee did a decent job of pressuring him in the passing game, he still proved to be too much for the Titans to overcome. This is the type of game we've long expected from Jackson, who has dazzled viewers for the entirety of his career, but hadn't come through in the clutch until Sunday. When Baltimore got the ball late in the fourth after Marcus Peters' timely interception, it was a surprise to no one to see Jackson running down the sideline for a big gain, sliding to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving. He's long been Baltimore's X-factor, and he's the reason the Ravens are moving on.

2) For a moment, the Ravens almost fell back into the trap that consumed them last postseason and in the middle of the 2020 regular season. Baltimore fell behind early and allowed the pressure to push them out of their comfort zone, turning to the play-action pass and watching Jackson heave an unnecessary 50/50 ball that was intercepted. In that moment, one question prevailed: Are the Ravens really going to let the postseason pressure force them out of their game plan again? They didn't. Thanks to a key stop in the red zone that forced the Titans to settle for a field goal, the Ravens remained in the game and learned from their earlier mistake. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman went back to what works best for Baltimore -- the run -- pounding the ground game with Jackson, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, and shortened Baltimore's passing game, allowing Jackson to establish a rhythm that has proven to be so dangerous to opponents. That opened up opportunities for Jackson to find Marquise Brown, who posted his first 100-yard game since Week 1, finishing with seven catches for 109 yards and opening up a rarely seen element of Baltimore's offense. With all of these factors considered, Baltimore became an offense that was difficult to stop, and was able to put the game away to earn sweet revenge over Tennessee.

3) It was entirely clear from the start of the game that the Ravens had learned from the regular season: They were not about to get beat by Derrick Henry. Baltimore loaded the box all afternoon, committing to stifling Henry's efforts by creating blocking disadvantages on 61.1 percent of Henry's 18 runs. It worked to great results, with Baltimore stuffing Henry on 22.2 percent of his 18 carries, per Next Gen Stats. He finished with just 40 yards and a long run of eight yards, finishing as a nonfactor in a game in which the Titans absolutely could have used him to balance their offense. Instead, the Titans had to turn to Ryan Tannehill, who found early success by targeting A.J. Brown in one-on-one situations, but couldn't sustain early gains nearly enough. Tennessee finished with just 209 yards of offense, was 4 of 12 on third down, lost the time of possession battle by more than seven minutes and was forced to punt five times. Another successful season ended in disappointment for the Titans, who are heading into the offseason without a postseason triumph after making an unlikely run to the conference title game a year ago.

4) As the Titans enter the offseason, they'll have plenty of time to reconsider a fateful decision on the part of Mike Vrabel. Facing fourth-and-2 at Baltimore's 40 with a little over 10 minutes left and a four-point deficit staring them in the face, the Titans opted to punt it away, mystifying those watching a situation in which analytics would strongly call for going for the first down. Vrabel said afterward he felt his defense was performing well enough to play the field-position game, but he overlooked a key detail that led to his team's downfall: The Titans were punting it back to the league's No. 1 rushing offense with time dwindling away. Baltimore took nearly six minutes off the clock on a drive that ended in a field goal, only after a fourth-and-2 conversion was wiped out by a questionable offensive pass interference penalty. By the time the Titans got the ball back, they had just 4:13 to try to cover 79 yards, then spent 1:32 stubbornly running the ball just to get a first down. The next play was the one that essentially ended their chances, with Tannehill targeting Kalif Raymond down the seam. Raymond tripped over Peters' legs, falling down and leaving the Ravens CB standing for an easy interception. Tennessee wasn't incapable of coming back through the air, but punting in that situation made their climb much steeper. In the end, it was too difficult to overcome, and it felt as if the Titans might have produced a different result had they coached to win, not to avoid losing.

5) Baltimore now heads into the Divisional Round riding a wave of joy from its first playoff triumph in over a half decade, and the style in which the Ravens won should have their next opponent spending extra time figuring out how to beat them. Instead of giving in to the playoff pressure, the Ravens stuck to their guns and won a wild-card game, continuing a run that saw Baltimore sprint to the postseason. With Jackson leading the charge, these Ravens will be a very tough out in the week(s) ahead, and once we learn their opponent following the conclusion of Super Wild Card Weekend, it'll be time to start projecting how they might fare. If they play as they did Sunday, their chances are pretty good.

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