The Ravens were the talk of the NFL on Monday morning after they embarrassed their bitter rivals from Pittsburgh in a 35-7 win at M&T Bank Stadium the previous afternoon. In perhaps their most impressive performance of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens forced seven turnovers, sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times and rushed for 170 yards. Their punter even ran for a two-point conversion.
So what will the Ravens do for an encore Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans? After such an emotionally charged victory over the Steelers, even the sloppiest of wins would suffice. The Ravens-Titans rivalry has faded over the years, but it’s a key game for two teams that are going in different directions.
The Titans have a new coach (Mike Munchak), a new quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck), and are looking for their first win. The Ravens are looking to avoid a letdown against a lesser foe now that the rest of the NFL has noticed them. Here are five story lines to follow during Sunday’s game in Nashville:
1. Can the Ravens match the Titans’ intensity? The Ravens’ biggest challenge on Sunday may be an internal one. They had the entire summer to prepare mentally and emotionally for the home opener against the Steelers. Then they had a week to shift their focus to their next opponents, who will be fired up for their home opener at LP Field. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have rarely lost games they were supposed to win. But last year, they beat the Jets in an intense Week 1 game and were flat the following week in a road loss to the Bengals. Will history repeat itself this season?
2. So much for the depth at cornerback. First-round draft pick Jimmy Smith (ankle) and veteran Chris Carr (hamstring) are out for Sunday’s game. That leaves the Ravens thin at cornerback. One is Domonique Foxworth, who is still shaking off the rust from his lost 2010 season. Another is a rookie: fifth-round pick Chykie Brown. And the Ravens signed unproven Danny Gorrer from the practice squad on Saturday. Hasselbeck told reporters this week that the aggressive Ravens could be victimized by big plays. Thankfully, though, the Titans lack playmakers in the passing game.
3. But the Titans might have the best running back in the NFL. Chris Johnson has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of his first three seasons -- including 2,006 in 2009 -- and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. The Ravens are wary of his speed, but they are clearly in Johnson’s head, too. This week, he was still talking about the pounding he took in the playoffs three years ago.
4. Will Lee Evans touch the ball this week? The fleet-footed wideout didn’t tally a reception in his Ravens debut, but the coaching staff and his teammates were quick to credit his speed on the outside for opening up space for Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice and the young tight ends. Evans was in a walking boot again this week, but he says he’s good to go. We’ll see if he gets on the stat sheet.
5. Heads up, Hasselbeck. AFC Defensive Player of the Week Terrell Suggs and the Ravens rattled Ben Roethlisberger, forcing him to turn the ball over five times (two fumbles and three interceptions). What does defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano have in store for Hasselbeck, now in Nashville after spending a decade in Seattle? The 35-year-old quarterback better buckle his chinstrap tight.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times