NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens used to know each other well.
As rivals in the old AFC Central, they faced off twice a season (at least). Between 1996, when the Ravens debuted in Baltimore, and the NFL’s most recent realignment in 2002 the franchises split 12 regular season meetings with the lone postseason encounter going to the Ravens.
They don’t see one another nearly as often these days, but there is a burgeoning familiarity. Saturday’s NFL divisional playoff game at Baltimore will make this the third straight season Tennessee and Baltimore have met. In 2017 and 2018 they played in the regular season with one victory for each side.
So, here is some of what Ravens players and coaches had to say this week as they prepared for this contest (and a little bit about the Ravens from Titans coach Mike Vrabel in the above video):
• Quarterback Lamar Jackson, on the Titans: “We know it's a good team. They're hungry just like we are. They've been on a roll, so we just have to do what we do – play ball.”
• Linebacker Josh Bynes, on controlling Tennessee’s run game: “Everybody has their own individual thing that makes them great, and (Derrick Henry) has his things that make him great. But, as long as we do what we’re supposed to do, we swarm, get guys to the football and make sure we’ve got a lot of people making tackles … it’s the league, everybody gets paid, so plays are going to be made, but we just have to keep our composure and do our jobs.”
• Coach John Harbaugh on Derrick Henry: “He’s very unique. You’d be hard-pressed to say who he’s like right now. He’s kind of his own guy, the way he runs, and does a great job with it.”
• Offensive coordinator Greg Roman on Tennessee defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ approach: “Just fundamentally sound, play hard, well-coached fundamentally, and just rock-solid defense. I think that says a lot, and that’s what a lot of people try to become. So, that’s what’s really characterized him over the years.”
• Jackson on the Titans’ defense: “Yes, their defense is pretty good. The corners do a pretty good job. The secondary is pretty good. They have a safety, No. 24 [Kenny Vaccaro], he's a thumper. He likes to come down. No. 54 [Rashaan Evans] is great, second-year player. He's a great player, Evans. We just have to do us – play football.”
• Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “I think adding Ryan Tannehill has done wonders for that offense, because he's the guy we all thought he was. They finally got him in a system that he's operating really well out of. Analytics tell you the most efficient play is the play-action pass, and he's doing that really well. So, it's one of those deals you go into [and say], ‘Hey, let's stop the run. Let's stop the pass. Let's stop the screens. Let's stop this.’ It's just – we have to go play football. It's playoff football.”
• Safety Earl Thomas on the mindset of the Ravens’ defense: “If Tannehill tries to pass on us, I don’t think that will go in their favor. We know they’re going to try to run the ball. But we just have to stop the run and play sound on the back end. I think that will take care of the play-action pass.”
• Martindale, on Derrick Henry: “He's like one of those guys that the kids create on Madden. You shouldn't be that big and be able to run like he runs. Obviously, we're going to have to bring our lunch pail, work hat and just go play football with him, because that's what Mike Vrabel is doing with him. They're just running the ball.”
• Tight end Mark Andrews on the Titans: “They're going to be well-coached, physical, fast. It's going to be a great game. They're, obviously, hot right now, and we're just preparing as hard as we can to get ready for them. It's going to be a challenge in every area, all facets of the game – offense, defense, special teams. It's going to be a fun one.”