NFL Playoffs: Ravens 13, Titans 10

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2009

Associated PressNASHVILLE, Tenn. ó As grudge matches go, this was worthy of the WWE. The Baltimore Ravens survived 13-10 against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday thanks to Matt Stover’s 43-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining.
Two teams with an extreme dislike for each other never stopped pounding it out in the wind and rain.
The difference: Baltimore forced three turnovers and never gave away the ball.
And when Joe Flacco led a 51-yard drive in the dying minutes to set up Stover’s winning kick, the Ravens (13-5) were headed to the AFC championship game. Led by the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games, the Ravens will play at Pittsburgh or San Diego next week for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore’s postseason run looks eerily similar to when it won the championship after the 2000 season. Back then, it also was a wild card and also won in Tennessee on the way to the title.
This victory was engineered by a brutal defense that forced mistakes by the Titans (13-4), who had the league’s best record this season.
It was so rugged that the highlight-reel play was All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis’ explosive second-quarter hit on Titans fullback Ahmard Hall near the sideline. Hall’s helmet flew off and both players began jawing at each other.
The nasty words never stopped flowing. But the Ravens backed it up with just enough points, climaxed by the winning kick from the last member of the Ravens who played when the franchise was in Cleveland.
The 40-year-old Stover also made a 21-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 10-7 lead.
Rob Bironas kicked a 27-yard field goal with 4:23 left in regulation to tie it at 10.
Then, the unflappable Flacco connected with Todd Heap on a 23-yard pass on third down, eventually leading to the winning kick.
Flacco almost had a major blunder on Baltimore’s next-to-last series when he nearly stepped out of the back of the end zone while passing. Few replays were shown at LP Field, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher dismissed the play afterward.
“We lost as a result of our own self-inflicted mistakes,” he said. “We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities today.”
Tennessee, a plus-14 in turnover margin while winning the AFC South, wasted a half-dozen scoring opportunities with errors. One came on Samari Rolle’s interception at the Ravens 12 on a popup Kerry Collins threw under pressure from a blitz in the second period. Another was Collins’ fourth-down fumble in Baltimore territory, which the quarterback recovered. The third was LenDale White’s fumble at the Baltimore 17 in the final minute of the half.
White was in for rookie Chris Johnson, who left with his right ankle wrapped late in the first half. Without Johnson, the Titans moved well through the air, with Justin Gage making 10 receptions for 135 yards.
But they couldn’t finish.