The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens made for a perfect rivalry in the late 1990s as products of a wave of relocated teams in the NFL who just happened to be in the same division together.
The Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns had been AFC Central Division rivals for years since the NFL merger in 1970. The Ravens came into existence in 1996 when Art Modell was forced to leave the Browns colors and history behind, and the Oilers packed up from Houston in time for the 1997 season, eventually changing their name to the Titans in 1999. They remained in the division together until the NFL realigned in 2002, making for several spicy meetings in a series that will be renewed in Baltimore this Sunday.
Tennessee and Baltimore are not even in the same division anymore, with the Titans in the AFC South and the Ravens in the AFC North. It makes their meetings sporadic, but whenever the two sides meet, it conjures up special memories of many games past.
Let’s take a look at the top fives games in this series.
AFC Divisional Playoffs 2000: Ravens 24, Titans 10
This game will forever stick in the craw of Titans fans, as Tennessee had completed a 13-3 season and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, only to have the Ravens literally steal the game away on their way to winning Super Bowl XXXV.
Titans highlight: The Titans’ defense turned in one of its most dominant performances ever, holding the Ravens to six first downs and 134 yards of total offense.
Titans lowlight: Ray Lewis’ 60-yard interception return when he stole a pass away from Eddie George sealed the game for Baltimore, and it came just a few minutes after Anthony Mitchell returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. It was a forgettable day for kicker Al Del Greco, who missed three field goals, including having two blocked.
AFC Wild-Card Playoffs 2003: Titans 20, Ravens 17
Eddie George’s revenge game, as he played the second half with a separated shoulder in a harness and still managed to run over Ray Lewis on a key rushing play. The Titans eventually won thee game on Gary Anderson’s 46-yard field goal with 29 seconds to play, a kick that would have been good from 46 ½ yards.
Titans highlight: Tennessee’s defense, charged with trying to slow down 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis of the Ravens, did just that, holding him to 35 yards on 14 carries with a long run of just eight yards.
Titans lowlight: As it always seemed to unfold against Baltimore, the Titans were victimized by a defensive and/or special teams touchdown. In this game it was Will Demps’ 56-yard touchdown return of an errant Steve McNair pass.
Regular season 2000: Ravens 24, Titans 23
The game that ended the Titans’ winning streak and their invincibility at what was then Adelphia Coliseum. Tennessee had opened its new stadium with 13 straight wins, but a late Ravens touchdown helped out by a pass interference call on Dainon Sidney ended that run for Tennessee.
Titans highlight: Safety Perry Phenix picked off a Trent Dilfer pass and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown that the Titans up 23-17 and seemingly had given the Titans the victory with just over two minutes left.
Titans lowlight: Al Del Greco missed the extra point after Phenix’s touchdown and Trent Dilfer drove the Ravens back downfield for the go-ahead score. The Titans had a chance to win it at the end, but Del Greco could not connect on a 43-yard attempt.
Regular season 2001: Ravens 16, Titans 10
In a lost season for the Titans that finished 7-9, this Monday night affair was supposed to be a season highlight in Nashville. The Titans were already trying to dig out of an 0-3 hole capped by a 26-7 pounding in Baltimore and could have reached the .500 mark with this victory, which ended with a defensive penalty on the Ravens actually benefiting them.
Titans highlight: The Titans were in position to win the game, and seemingly had when Steve McNair, in hurry-up mode from the Ravens’ 1-yard line with the clock running out, took a quarterback sneak into the end zone for the tying touchdown as time ran out. The pending extra point would have sent the Titans to a victory. But offsides was called on the Ravens’ Peter Boulware, who made contact with a Titans lineman trying to get back for the play, stopping the play and disallowing the touchdown.
Titans lowlight: On the next play from inside the 1, the Titans tried the sneak again, but this time, McNair was stopped as he had to momentarily regroup after bobbling the snap from center Bruce Matthews, ending the game with the Titans inches short of the goal line and victory.
Regular season 2006: Ravens 27, Titans 26
It was a homecoming for Steve McNair, who had been locked out of the Titans’ facility earlier in the offseason because of his $23 million salary cap figure. After a grievance and a trade to Baltimore just before the start of training camp, McNair made an immediate impact for the Ravens, helping them to a 13-3 season. The Titans, on the other hand, were going through the growing pains of rookie quarterback Vince Young, who would eventually win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Titans highlight: Safety Lamont Thompson tried to spoil McNair’s homecoming, intercepting his former teammate twice. One of the interceptions was in the end zone and spoiled a Baltimore scoring drive, while the other led to Travis Henry’s 1-yard touchdown as Tennessee built a 26-7 lead.
Titans lowlight: McNair wound up getting the best of his former teammates, rallying them with 20 unanswered points, including the game-winner to another former Titan, Derrick Mason.