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Titans send punchless Ravens to 0-2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 18, 2005) -- Tennessee Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck was so elated over teammate Brad Kassell's interception return for a touchdown that he grabbed the first football he saw and punted it into the stands.

Oops. That was the ball Kassell wanted for his trophy cabinet.

"If he has to buy it, I'll buy it for him," Bulluck said of the ball, which now belongs to a fan.

Bulluck and the Titans were in a giving mood Sunday after proving they really can tackle in beating the Baltimore Ravens 25-10 in their home opener.

Steve McNair threw a touchdown, Rob Bironas kicked field goals of 39, 29 and 47 yards and Rob Reynolds blocked a punt in the end zone for a safety as the NFL's youngest team easily dismantled a supposedly improved Ravens offense.

The rebuilding Titans (1-1) had replaced five starters on defense this offseason, but they easily outplayed Baltimore's Pro Bowl-stocked unit with six sacks and two turnovers, including Kassell's 21-yard interception return in the fourth quarter.

Kyle Vanden Bosch just missed a safety on his third sack of the game, but Reynolds got it when he blocked Dave Zastudil 's punt and tackled Will Demps in the end zone in the final minutes. "The defense played great," Titans running back Travis Henry said.

The Ravens (0-2) struggled for a second straight week on offense, and not even a change in quarterback seemed to help.

Anthony Wright started for Kyle Boller, who was booed when he left with a hyperextended right big toe in last week's 24-7 loss to Indianapolis. Wright had helped lead the Ravens to the AFC North title in 2003 before losing to the Titans in a wild-card game on Jan. 3, 2004, his last start.

Now they head into their bye week before hosting the New York Jets on Oct. 2, and coach Brian Billick said he can't even begin to break down all the mistakes.

"We've got a lot of work to do, plain and simple. This bye didn't look to be in a particularly good spot when it first came out. But obviously right now, it's what we need because we have a great deal of work these next two weeks," Billick said.

The Titans defense gave up 424 total yards last week in an embarrassing 34-7 loss at Pittsburgh.

They fed off the emotions of a sold-out crowd and more than atoned by holding Baltimore to 182 yards offense and a Ravens-franchise low of only 14 yards rushing. The Ravens went three-and-out on six of their first seven possessions and didn't get a first down until the third quarter.

"What a difference a week makes," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

"We now have to maintain this level of play, and that is the challenge week to week."

The Titans had no such problems as they held the ball for more than 19 minutes in the first half and rolled up 228 yards with a 13-0 lead. They finished with 290 yards.

After a fumble by Jamal Lewis, McNair tossed a 2-yard pass to fullback Troy Fleming for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Lewis finished with nine yards on 10 carries, and he only had compliments for Tennessee.

"Watching on film from last week, they looked like a totally different defense. They played well. They played great as a whole team," Lewis said.

Bironas, who missed his only field goal attempt at Pittsburgh, capped a 13-play drive in the second quarter with his first field goal and added a 29-yarder just before halftime. He tightened his hold on his first NFL job with the 47-yarder in the third.

McNair finished 19 of 36 for 195 yards.

Wright had trouble getting comfortable and was 25 of 40 for 212 yards. He fell when he stepped on center Mike Flynn 's foot after the snap, and bobbled a snap three times out of the shotgun.

Billick's only other options were rookie Derek Anderson and veteran Kordell Stewart, who was signed earlier this week. Baltimore finally got on the board by abandoning the run on their first drive in the third quarter.

Wright hit seven straight passes in moving the Ravens to the Titans 12. But he missed Wilcox under pressure and overthrew Clarence Moore in the end zone, so they settled for a 30-yard field goal from Matt Stover.

The Ravens finally scored on a 12-yard TD toss to ex-Titan Derrick Mason in the fourth when it was too late.

NOTES: Vanden Bosch came into the game with only five sacks in his first four seasons with Arizona. ... Kassell's interception and TD return was a career first for the linebacker. ... The 14 yards rushing allowed was the fewest by Tennessee since holding Buffalo to 4 yards rushing net on Nov. 23, 1997. ... The six sacks by the Titans were the most since Sept. 8, 2002, when they had six against Philadelphia.

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