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NFL playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens comes down to the defenses

NASHVILLE — The Titans and Ravens win with defense — bare-knuckled, bullying ball hawks who want to create turnovers and score so they don't have to spend time on the sideline.

Heading into today's AFC division playoff game, there's been so much talk about which team owns the best defense that maybe they should consider letting them square off against each other.

"Their defense outplay our defense? That isn't going to happen," Titans defensive tackle Kyle Vanden Bosch said this week. "We heard some of this stuff when we played them before. We heard it when we played Pittsburgh. We do think a lot of their defense. We think more of ours."

If you refuse to go to horror flicks, never rubberneck driving past collisions or are otherwise on the squeamish side, the Ravens-Titans playoff game might not be for you.

It is likely to be the most physical game of the postseason. The headliners include Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for the Ravens, Albert Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch for the Titans.

"The adjustment here will be whether to punch the guy with the right hand or punch him with the left hand," CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said. "These are two teams that will do nothing more than try to impose their physicality on the other. This will be a bloodbath."

This game is similar to one between the teams in the 2000 season. The Titans were 13-3, had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and were poised for a second straight trip to the Super Bowl. Then the wild-card Ravens went into Nashville and won 24-10 in the AFC division playoffs.

This season the Ravens boast the No. 2 defense in the NFL; the Titans are No. 7 in total yardage. But it was the Titans who beat Baltimore 13-10 on the road in Week 5.

"They just have … one or two defensive stars that we don't," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We just have 11 players on our defense."

The Titans and Ravens are mirror images of one another, even on offense. Both like to control the football on the ground with physical runners, Chris Johnson and LenDale White for Tennessee, Le'Ron McClain and Willis McGahee for the Ravens.

That's why the game could come down to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.

The Titans' Kerry Collins may have the edge in that department. But he has some demons to exorcise. Collins quarterbacked the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens in Tampa and was intercepted four times to finish with a passer rating of 7.1.

Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who has exceeded all expectations, was intercepted twice by the Titans in the regular season. But make no mistake, the team that plays the best defense today will advance to the conference championship game.

"This defense is totally different," Lewis said. "We've got a totally different mind-set. We're a totally different team than we were in 2000, and (there are) totally different people on their side as well. Our job is to stay focused on the now. Yesterday is gone. Let's leave it there."

NFL playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens comes down to the defenses 01/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:08pm]
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