What We Learned
Three things we know after the Ravens' 26-7 victory
Updated: Monday October 08, 2001 12:25 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
BALTIMORE -- The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens beat up again on their new favorite patsy, trouncing the struggling Tennessee Titans 26-7 behind a 207-yard rushing performance on Sunday at PSINet Stadium. Here are three observations from the game:
1. Baltimore's PSINet Stadium has become the toughest place for a road team to win in the NFL.
Don't even argue with us. Sorry, Denver. Forget about it, Tennessee. You are yesterday's home dominators. The Ravens have recently proved our case all by themselves.
Baltimore went to Denver last week and slapped the Broncos around 20-13, handing them their first loss in the new Invesco Field at Mile High. As for Tennessee, the Ravens ended the Titans' 13-game winning streak at Adelphia Coliseum last year, pulling off upsets in both the November regular-season meeting and the January playoff matchup.
By beating the Titans at PSINet, the Ravens have now won seven in a row at home, including a 2-0 mark this year and the New Year's Eve defeat of Denver in the wild-card round. In those seven games, Baltimore has outscored its opponents by a whopping 193-53, or an average of 28-8.
The Ravens don't just beat you in PSINet, they humiliate you. Even without an offense that ranks among the NFL's best, each of those seven victories have come by a margin of at least 11 points. Five have been by a margin of at least 18 points. Teams coming to Baltimore know they're in for a long, physical game, with plenty of trash talking from the Ravens.
But it ain't bragging if you can back it up, and nobody backs it up at home in the NFL these days quite like Baltimore does.
2. If you thought last year was a fluke, Baltimore's defense is proving that it deserves to be mentioned among the game's greatest of all time.
After obliterating the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season (165) last year, many skeptics assumed the Ravens' defense might be inclined to rest on its laurels in 2001. With a quarter of its regular-season schedule in the books, Baltimore has done no such thing.
In four games, the Ravens have given up just two legitimate touchdown drives. Both came in Week 2, in Cincinnati's 21-10 victory. The Bengals' third touchdown came on a Takeo Spikes' interception return.
The Ravens held Chicago to two field goals in a 17-6 season-opening win, gave up just a 3-yard, one-play touchdown drive to the Broncos in the first 20 seconds of last week's 20-13 win at Denver, and held the Titans without an offensive point on Sunday.
That's a total of four field goals and two touchdowns -- for 26 points -- that Baltimore's defense can be held accountable for in four games. That's an average of 6.5 points per game, a pace that would translate to just 104 points allowed for the entire season. In the past two games, the defense has given up a total of six points after Denver's quickie touchdown drive, which was set up by an Elvis Grbac interception.
Even if you count all 47 points scored against Baltimore this season, the Ravens' per game average is just 11.75. That would translate to just 188 points surrendered, or just 23 more than last year. For comparison, the 1986 Bears held the previous record at 187 points allowed before Baltimore broke their record last year.
3. Things can't get any worse for once-proud Tennessee. Or can they?
Before Sunday, the Titans had never been 0-3 under head coach Jeff Fisher, who took over late in the 1994 season. But Tennessee might be in for the kind of season in which it breaks all kinds of unwelcomed new ground.
A check of the Titans' schedule shows that a quick turnaround could prove difficult. With a visit by Tampa Bay (2-1) looming next week, Tennessee could be staring at the franchise's first 0-4 beginning since 1984. The Bucs have their own struggles, but the Titans are very beatable at home, having lost three of their past six games there after opening the stadium with a record 13 consecutive victories.
After the Bucs game comes road trips to Detroit (0-2) and Pittsburgh (2-1), then challenging home rematches with Jacksonville and Baltimore, two of the teams that already have beaten the Titans. The Baltimore rematch is just five weeks away, and that may not be enough time for Tennessee to wash away the stench of Sunday's debacle.
Should they put together a winning streak and get back into the playoff race, the Titans still would face a very difficult December stretch. Tennessee has two games against much improved Cleveland, trips to Oakland and Minnesota, and a home game against Green Bay -- all in December. The rescheduled Sept. 16 home game against Cincinnati concludes Tennessee's regular season.
An 0-3 start is rough. But the situation in Tennessee may not yet have bottomed out.