Lamar Jackson looks for first playoff win against Titans

It was a dream 2019 season for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

In his first full season as an NFL starter, Jackson incinerated the conjecture that he was a gimmick quarterback who couldn’t cut it as a pocket passer. He proved his mettle as an elite passer who was also arguably the game’s most dangerous runner en route to an NFL MVP at 22 years old.

He led the game’s highest-scoring offense to a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC.

Then the playoffs came.

The Tennessee Titans shut down Baltimore’s vaunted attack in a 28-12 stunner, eliminating Baltimore in its postseason opener and setting forth a narrative around Jackson: He can’t cut it in the playoffs.

Can Lamar Jackson avoid a third loss in three playoff games? (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Jackson, Ravens get another shot at Titans

The playoff loss was the second the Ravens suffered in as many games with Jackson at quarterback after a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers the season prior.

Now, amid a season where Jackson took a step back from his MVP form — though his 1,000-yard rushing effort with 33 total touchdowns against 13 turnovers is nothing to be scoffed at — he has a chance to exorcise his alleged playoff demons against the team that cut last season short of the AFC championship game.

The Ravens will visit the AFC South champion Titans on Sunday in a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.

Derrick Henry vs. NFL’s best rushing attack

It promises to be a bruiser, a matchup of the NFL’s best running back against the NFL’s best rushing team.

The Titans’ Derrick Henry led the league in rushing this season, cementing his status as the game’s best runner en route to the NFL’s eighth 2,000-yard rushing season. It’s a phenomenal feat for the most physical running back of his generation who somehow keeps getting better at age 27.

In a league that generally sees the toll of the position start to produce diminishing returns around age 25, Henry is one of the game’s transcendent players.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) rushes for a gain against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Derrick Henry remains the NFL’s most dominant runner. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

The only ground game to rival Henry’s this season belonged to the Ravens. And that required a group effort. While Henry averaged 126.7 rushing yards per game, the Ravens led the league as a team with 191.9 yards per game on the ground, nearly 24 yards better than the second-place Titans.

Three Ravens eclipsed 700 rushing yards this season, led by Jackson’s 1,005-yard effort. J.K. Dobbins (805 yards) and Gus Edwards (723 yards) joined him atop the Ravens’ rushing hierarchy while Mark Ingram added 299 yards in limited action.

Scoreboard shootout in store?

It adds up to a punishing attack that stays fresh through four quarters.

And that’s bad news for a middling Titans defense that finished this season 19th against the run. Don’t look for this Titans defensive unit to hold the Ravens to 12 points again. If Tennessee is going to score a second straight postseason win over Baltimore, it’ll need to keep up on offense.

With perennially underrated Ryan Tannehill at quarterback alongside Henry, the Titans’ third-ranked offense is more than capable.

Jackson — who played his best football during the second half of the season — may have to revert to his MVP form to avoid a third loss in three playoff games.

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