After upsetting the odds to eliminate the New England Patriots at Foxboro in the wild card round, the Tennessee Titans managed to pull off an ever bigger shock last night.
Few experts gave them much chance of defeating the top seeded Baltimore Ravens. The Titans scraped into the playoffs with a 9-7 record after a late season push, while the Ravens had gone 14-2 and undefeated since week four.
Not only this, they had the most in-form player in the sport in quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Titans would go on to pull off a stunning 28-12 win in Maryland, advancing to the AFC championship game. They raced into a 14-0 lead early on and never really looked like giving it up.
While Jackson would throw for 300 yards and rush for another 100 yards (becoming the first player to put up such numbers in a playoff game), it is fair to say he was not as effective as he had been for much of the season, especially when some of those numbers came when the game was essentially already beyond them.
The Ravens had put together the most prolific rushing offence in league history during the regular season, meaning slowing down that avenue attack was always going to be key to this game.
Speaking after the game Titans defensive player Logan Ryan said they took a page out of the Madden video game series to slow down Jackson and his teammates.
'Engage eight' is an incredibly popular play in the game and is usually used against the run. The Titans chose to replicate that play on numerous occasions last night:
Great breakdown from Logan Ryan on how the Titans shut down Lamar Jackson: "We had 8-, 9-man boxes all night. You play Madden and run Engage Eight all day, it’s hard to run the ball. We pretty much did that."
They also used Bills as a blueprint. Full quote here: pic.twitter.com/SzjQ206skw
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) January 12, 2020
We wanted to give (Jackson) loaded boxes all night to get him out of the run game.
We were either playing with a loaded box and man to man and make him beat us throwing the ball outside mano-a-mano, or we were going to play a zone defence, a quarters defence similar to what Buffalo did, and Buffalo played them well.
Buffalo just didn’t score a lot of points on offence.
We had eight-, nine-man boxes all night. You play Madden and run Engage Eight all day, it’s hard to run the ball. We pretty much did that and we got a lead.
And once we got a lead, they had to go to the pass game and that’s our strength with the (defensive backs) we have and having the ball skills we have. When we get a lead, we can get some interceptions.
Tennessee will now face either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Houston Texans for a place in the Super Bowl.