If you take a trip down memory lane, you’d find years worth of exhilarating playoff memories between the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens.
The heated rivalry between Eddie George and Ray Lewis, the the physical battles in the trenches that both teams wanted to win, and even the connections both teams had roster wise, there were so many dynamic story lines that surrounded these two teams whenever they suited up to play.
Those battles are all in the past though.
There’s no more Ray Lewis or Eddie George, there’s no more Ed Reid and Steve McNair, and both teams are full of new players and new personalities that have no outstanding connections to the original rivalry back in the early 2000s.
But as Sunday’s game between the Titans and Ravens quickly draws near, there’s a feeling of tension that’s a little similar to the one felt during the heated battles of the past.
No, we’re not talking a full blown reincarnation of the muscle abusing rivalry that gained so much traction back then. Instead of that, we’re seeing two teams challenge each other with indirect jeers and a little bit of attitude, while letting their collective play do the talking for them.
How The Rivalry Was Brought Back to Life
2019-2020 AFC Divisional Round
We all know how this went down.
Leading up to the game, there was a lot of talk surrounding the Ravens, and their impressive season in which they secured the AFC’s #1 seed.
Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, and the Ravens’ modern, creative power run scheme took the league by storm. So much so, that many had pegged Baltimore as a shoe in for the AFC title game, with a match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs as the dream scenario for football fans everywhere.
But instead of coasting to the the AFC title game, Baltimore lost on their home turf, and it was mainly because they ran into the buzz saw known as Derrick Henry.
The 2020 January playoff loss left a very bad taste in the mouths of Ravens players, and seemingly gave them the necessary fuel to go back to the drawing board, and make the necessary adjustments to avoid any sort of slips ups in the 2020-2021 season.
So when they ran across the Titans in late November of 2020, they were looking to erase any sort of talk regarding their playoff loss, and replace it with a beat down of the team that ruined their dream season.
However, things didn’t go Baltimore’s way.
Titans-Ravens, Week 11, November 22nd, 2020
Much of the talk surrounding this game, was the “groundbreaking, heart stopping, hold your breath” inducing rematch between the Titans and Ravens.
Yes, there’s a little sarcasm in there, but the rematch was still the big talk of Week 11.
Ravens players downplayed the significance of the game during the week in terms of revenge, and other words that the media loved to use to paint this game as it drew near. Titans players did the same, saying how it was “just another game”, and another opportunity to go out there and get a win.
But once we were all trying to get settled in for kickoff, we then realized it wasn’t “just another game”
Here's a better version of what happened between #Ravens John Harbaugh and #Titans Mike Vrabel pregame:
Harbaugh: It’s disrespectful.
Vrabel: Tell him to coach a game
Harbaugh: It’s disrespectful!
Vrabel: Go coach!
Harbaugh again: It’s disrespectful!pic.twitter.com/BJPZvxf0nN
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 26, 2020
Yes, the midfield logo confrontation during pre-game that caught so many by surprise. It came out of nowhere, so much so that some were more concerned about the incident than the start of the actual football game, which was a doozy in itself.
Derrick Henry turned on the heat in the 2nd half and OT, leading the charge towards an eventual comeback win for the Titans, and also their 2nd win against Baltimore in the calendar year of 2020.
It was another exciting chapter in the revived rivalry between the Titans and Ravens, a rivalry that’ll introduce its 3rd chapter on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
But with all the talk about the new rivalry, how does it compare to the one of old?
How’s The Rivalry Now Compared to The One of The Past?
In the early 2000s, we saw these two teams compete time after time in playoff games to remember.
Eddie George’s drop that led Ray Lewis’ memorable pick 6 to seal a win for the Ravens during a 2001 wild card game. The Titans’ dramatic wild card win in Baltimore in 2004, a game in which 44 year old Gary Anderson nailed a game winning field goal to send the Titans to the next round. Of course you also can’t forget the 2008 match-up, when the Ravens knocked off the #1 seeded Titans on the road.
There’s just so much history between these two teams, and that includes the big time games when the Titans and Ravens were both a part of the same AFC Central division until the 2002 season.
Anyone who covered both teams during this time could tell you, these two teams hated each other, and never balked at the opportunity to shut each other up by way of a win.
It isn’t like that anymore though, and it’s easy to understand why.
There’s new faces on both teams, new stars to watch, and a newfound sense of urgency that both teams possess. Of course, both teams don’t want to lose to each other, especially the Ravens considering their last two defeats against the Titans came in front of a national audience.
But things are a little different now, even with the new sparks of competition in the air.
The tension between both teams feel real.
It’s not at the level of the old Titans-Ravens games, but it’s somewhat close. https://t.co/DkzBYytX81
— TreJean Watkins (@TreWatkins099) January 6, 2021
It’s a new era.
The Titans and Ravens have renewed their long standing rivalry, but in different ways compared to the one of the past. Rich history flows within the blood of this specific match-up, mostly due to the unique stories that remain tied to both teams.
We’ll be in for another thrilling installment of Titans-Ravens this Sunday, but it won’t be the same as the wars of old.
This time, new faces will write their own chapter, and they’ll do so in their own way.