LBs, safeties key to Titans' defense
Updated: January 9, 2004, 8:15 AM ETBy Football Scouts, Inc. | For ESPN Insider
Editor's note: After a week of watching film, Football Scouts, Inc., takes a second look at each NFL playoff match-up.
How did Tennessee's defense shut down RB Jamal Lewis last week? The easy guess is that the Titans loaded the box to and dared QB Anthony Wright to take his shots in the passing game. But that is only partially true. The Titans played man-to-man coverage on the perimeter, with one safety in the deep middle of the field and eight defenders in the box. But they also keyed on Ravens FB Alan Ricard, who leads Lewis into the hole, with OLBs Peter Sirmon and Keith Bulluck. At the snap, they attacked Ricard, taking on his block, usually before he reached the line of scrimmage. The result: Baltimore couldn't get a surge up front, and holes closed before Lewis could reach the second level to cut back. It was a brilliant game plan, one that seemed to discourage the Ravens enough they abandoned their commitment to the run game.
LBs Sirmon and Bulluck are just one of the Titans' two important duos: The other is the safety tandem of Tank Williams and Lance Schulters. Both pairs are playing as well as any in the league at their positions.