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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Johnson: The best team didn't win

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tennessee tight end Alge Crumpler (83) fumbles in the fourth quarter after taking a lick from Baltimore safety Jim Leonhard at the Ravens 6-yard line.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
NASHVILLE -- There's no doubt in my mind who the best team was at LP Field Saturday.

Unfortunately for Titans fans, that doesn't count for much.

Tennessee's defense played like one of the top rated defenses they were while the Titans offense was very productive and almost doubled the Ravens in net yards gained.

The Titans had 391 yards compared to Baltimore's 211; Tennessee controlled the time of possession 34:07-25:53; and collected 21 first downs to the Ravens 9.

At the end of the game, the only numbers that really matter are the points on the scoreboard and the Titans just didn't get it done.

Two areas that cost Tennessee the win were turnovers and penalties.

The Titans had three turnovers and a dozen penalties totaling 89 yards while Baltimore didn't have a turnover and was flagged eight times for 40 yards. You just can't make that many mistakes and expect to win a football game, much less a divisional playoff game.

To make matters even worse, how many points did the Titans leave on the field?

The fumble by LenDale White right before halftime just when it looked like the Titans would take a 3-point lead, then the fumble by Alge Crumpler in the fourth quarter inside the Baltimore 5-yard line come to mind.

White and Crumpler didn't make any excuses in the locker room after the game.

"I think that the momentum with the fumble that I had before half prevented us from getting three points right there and probably could have boosted us up in the second half," White said. "I am definitely taking the blame for us losing this game because I feel like I could have stepped up a lot more and held onto the ball and give us momentum going into the second half."

Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton (89) comes down with a key reception to set up a score.
(T-G Photo by Danny Parker)
"What we did was we would get into the red zone and we would turn the ball over down there. It's nobody's fault but our own," Crumpler said. "It's a sick feeling because I have never felt like I put my team in a situation that hurt having done so much in my whole career. That hurts me more than anything. It's going to take a while to get over because this team was ready to take the next step."

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher summed up the loss with this statement.

"You know, this was obviously a very, very difficult loss, one that was a result, as I should put it, probably our own self-inflicted mistakes. Penalties at the wrong time, missed field goal, fumbles in the plus-territory, we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities today.

"I thought we played hard, we just didn't play well enough to win. We just didn't make the plays. It's disappointing but it's football. You hang onto the ball in both situations you know maybe the game is different.

"I'm not going to single out LenDale or Alge as being the reason that we lost this game, or Rob (Bironas) with the kick. We lost it as a team. We had opportunities. We just didn't make the plays that we needed to."

I've had a number of people tell me that this game was identical to the Baltimore/Tennessee matchup in the 2000 playoff game played in Nashville. The Ravens won that one 24-10, but the Titans dominated the stat sheet just like they did Saturday.

Tennessee had 317 yards of total offense compared to Baltimore's 134; dominated the time of possession 40:29-19:31; and collected 23 first downs to the Ravens' six.

In the 2000 game the Titan defense held the Raven rushing attack to only 49 yards.....Saturday Baltimore rushed for 50. There is another similarity as Tennessee finished the season with a 13-4 record in both seasons after being the No. 1 seed.

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be contacted at gjohnson@t-g.com.

Gary Johnson
Point by Point