Keys to the Game: Ravens Have to Limit Titans Red-Zone Opportunities

Tennessee has been solid finding the end zone.
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Titans have a knack for finding the end zone and that high-powered attack will pose a daunting challenge for the Ravens in an AFC wild-card game Jan. 10 in Nashville. 

Tennessee has scored on 75% of their trips to the red zone, which ranks second in the NFL behind Green Bay. 

The Titans have a powerful running back in Derrick Henry who is difficult to tackle and led the NFL with 2,027 yards rushing. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been effectively managing the offense and avoiding costly turnovers. 

"They’re one of the top teams for a reason," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "I think we’ve talked about this in the past; if you can run the ball in the red zone, that sets you up. It’s really important to be able to run the ball in the red zone, and then the ability to extend plays is really critical, which, of course, Ryan can do very well and their weapons. 

"They do a good job of moving around and getting open on the extended play and scramble. Of course, Ryan keeps the ball a lot of times down inside the 10-yard line. So, all of those things are why they’re so good. It’s going to be up to us to try to get them stopped.”

When the Ravens make a stop, they have to limit mistakes that give the Titans another opportunity to score. Penalties have been troublesome for Baltimore, which ranked 28th in the NFL with 104 infractions. 

"You have to have great communication and play penalty-free in the red zone, OK? The red zone comes up big," Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. "This is one of the best red zone teams, offensively, that we’ve faced, and that’s because of Ryan Tannehill and what he brings to that offense. You’re talking about a quarterback who [has] guys that can play, probably, three different positions on offense. He’s a talent, and he’s athletic."

The Ravens are also solid with finding the end zone. 

While Baltimore is ranked 12th for red-zone offense, quarterback Lamar Jackson has never thrown an interception in the red zone over his three-year NFL career.

Jackson has completed 39 of 58 (67.2%) pass attempts for 259 yards with 19 touchdowns (116.3 rating) in trips to the red zone. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the only player to outperform Jackson in this area. 

However, the Ravens have faltered to take advantage of their scoring opportunities in the past two games against Tennessee.

In last year's 28-12 loss to the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Ravens were 1 of 4 in the red zone and 0 for 4 on fourth down.

In a Week 11, 30-24 overtime loss to Tennessee, Baltimore scored just once on four trips to the red zone.

Jackson is hoping for a different result this weekend.  

"Our mindset is different," Jackson said. "I feel like we did a great job in the first half of the game [in Week 11] – everyone was clicking. It was just in the second half, we didn’t finish. We just didn’t focus to keep it going. We went to overtime, but we should’ve finished the game before overtime, I feel. But it is what it is, and we’ve got another opportunity right now. 

"So, this time, let’s just finish, and I feel we’ll be fine. We played a pretty good game – all phases did – but we’ve just got to score points when we need to. When we get in the red zone, score points, and I feel we’ll be fine. Just finish.”

Baltimore will have to make the most of its scoring opportunities because the Titans like to get into shootouts. Tennessee is ranked fourth in the NFL averaging 30.7 points per game. The Ravens are ranked seventh averaging 29.3 points per game.

"That’s why our No. 1 goal on offense is to win the game," Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "And how do you do that? You must first score points. So, whether you’re ahead or behind, it’s a little bit different, but it’s just something you’ve got to gauge during the game. It comes down to execution.”