By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun
5:41 PM PDT, September 18, 2011
Between Chris Palmer's masterful play calls and Matt Hasselbeck's perfectly-timed throws, the Ravens found no safe haven at LP Field Sunday. A week after forcing seven turnovers, their defense was taken apart in a methodical, precise assault.
How quickly the table turned.
The Tennessee Titans had all the right calls in a 26-13 win that left the Ravens' depleted secondary worse for the wear. Hasselbeck, 35 and a 13-year NFL veteran, carved up the Ravens' secondary for 358 yards and had Baltimore's proud defense on its heels most of the sun-drenched afternoon.
"They did a great job of mixing it up," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "They were going deep a lot and then they'd mix in short passing, and they were able to do both. Their guys spread the field on us, and that opened the middle. We've just got to do a better job."
There was probably not a better summation in the Ravens' somber locker room.
In the country music capital, Hasselbeck turned the Ravens every which way but loose. Palmer, Tennessee's offensive coordinator, made the calls and Hasselbeck made the plays. If he wasn't throwing behind the Ravens' defense, he was throwing quick flanker screens, and whatever he threw made yards.
He beat cornerback Cary Williams for a 37-yard strike to Kenny Britt in the first quarter in a series that ended with a missed field goal. He found tight end Jared Cook for a lunging, 33-yard catch in the second quarter that led to a touchdown.
Then he went over the top in the third quarter for a 42-yard bomb to Nate Washington that gave Tennessee a lead it would not relinquish. And finally he hit Britt again for 28 yards over cornerback Domonique Foxworth in the fourth quarter that forced the Ravens to start using their timeouts.
No defensive back was spared in the onslaught. Cornerback Lardarius Webb led the team in tackles for the second straight week with 10, and was victimized on the 42-yard play. Foxworth and safeties Ed Reed and Tom Zbikowksi surrendered big plays as well.
"He's a great quarterback," Williams said about Hasselbeck. "We just need to make more plays. We're not going to play a perfect game. [But] Hasselbeck played the most perfect game he possibly could."
With the game in the balance in the second half, Hasselbeck turned three third-and-long passes into precision completions. For the day, the Titans were 7-for-17 on third down, but they also were 2-for-2 on fourth down, including a 10-yard scoring run by Javon Ringer early in the second half.
Once Hasselbeck got into a rhythm with his receivers, he was unstoppable.
"His deep balls, even with perfect coverage, were still well-thrown balls to the outside where really his two big receivers were the only ones that could get to it," Zbikowski said. "He was on today. I wouldn't be surprised if we see them later down the road."
Britt, a third-year receiver, scalded the Ravens with nine catches worth 135 yards and one touchdown when Foxworth backed off press coverage. Washington had seven receptions for 99 yards.
Hasselbeck got rid of the ball too quickly for the Ravens to mount a pass rush and when he got the right coverage, he went deep.
"They did a great job moving their guys around and substituting different players in and out," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "Their big guy, Kenny Britt, they did a great job moving him around, putting him in different positions. It created some matchup problems, and Hasselbeck is a lot like Peyton Manning, where he's not going to hold onto the ball. He's going to throw on rhythm and on time."
Foxworth gave Hasselbeck credit, but tempered his praise with the perspective that the Ravens had troubles of their own.
"I don't want to take anything from [Hasselbeck]," Foxworth said. "But we made a lot of mistakes. And obviously when you make those kind of mistakes against a guy with that type of talent, experience and knowledge, he's going to make you pay. And he did that today."
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