The Tennessee Titans scored late in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game on a 12-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and tight end Jonnu Smith. The Titans never looked back on their way to a 28-12 victory over the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens. The win marked the first time since the 2010 season that a sixth-seeded team has defeated a top seed in the NFL playoffs, according to CBS Sports.
"It's not just me, it's a team effort, we're just playing collectively, as a whole, and we're just locked in," said Titans running back Derrick Henry in a post-game interview. Henry rushed for 195 yards on 30 carries — and threw a touchdown pass, leading Tennessee to its first AFC Conference Championship game since the 2002 season when they lost to the Oakland Raiders.
Henry's performance followed his 182 yards on 34 carries in last week's Wild Card game upset over the New England Patriots. The dominant, back-to-back outings made him the first NFL running back ever to record two games with 175 or more yards in a single postseason.
The Ravens came in as 9.5-point favorites after winning their last 12 regular season games in a row to finish at 14-2, the best record in the NFL. The Titans trudged into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, winning their regular season finale over the AFC South champion Houston Texans to beat out the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC's second and final wild card berth.
The two consecutive playoff upset wins now have head coach Mike Vrabel's team one win away from only their second Super Bowl in franchise history — including their years as the Houston Oilers from 1960 to 1996. Tennessee's only Super Bowl appearance came in the 1999-2000 season. That game ended when wide receiver Kevin Dyson came up one yard short of the end zone with what could have been a game-tying touchdown, on a pass from quarterback Steve McNair, as recounted by Bleacher Report.In Saturday's win over Baltimore, Tannehill threw for only 88 yards, with seven completions in 14 attempts. But two of those passes went for touchdowns, to Smith and wide receiver Kalif Raymond.
The passing highlight for Tennessee came at 6:54 left in the third quarter when Henry took a direct snap and unleashed a jump-pass into the end zone from three yards out, where wide receiver Corey Davis hauled it in to put the Titans up 21-6 at the time.
The play was the first passing touchdown by a running back in the NFL playoffs since 1987, when Allen Rice of the Minnesota Vikings tossed for a TD.
Though the Titans played perhaps their best overall game of the season, with their defense holding the NFL-best Ravens' offense to a single touchdown and two field goals, the Ravens let the game slip away with mistakes. All of Tennessee's 28 points came on Baltimore turnovers or fourth-down stops, as The Associated Press noted.
Henry also played in two playoff games in the 2017-2018 season, meaning he has now set a record for most rushing yards in the first four playoff games of a career. With a total of 561 yards rushing, Henry surpasses Terrell Davis and Arian Foster, who each recorded 515.
The Titans will now face the winner of Sunday's game in Kansas City pitting the second-seeded Chiefs against the Houston Texans, who defeated the Buffalo Bills last week to get into the divisional round for the first time since 2016.