NASHVILLE — Defensive end Calais Campbell knows the time has arrived to prove why Baltimore traded for him last March: It’s Round 3 of the Ravens vs. Derrick Henry.
A spot in the AFC divisional round will be on the line Sunday.
Henry helped the Titans stun the top-seeded Ravens a year ago in the divisional round as the NFL rushing leader ran for 195 yards, threw a touchdown pass, and turned Baltimore safety Earl Thomas into his blocker with a stiff arm at one point.
Baltimore traded a fifth-round pick to Jacksonville for Campbell last March, and the six-time Pro Bowl end missed Round 2 on Nov. 22 when Henry ran for 133 yards — 89 on 10 carries in the fourth quarter and overtime — in a 30-24 win capped by his 29-yard TD run.
“Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs to ever play this game, and he’s in the zone right now,” Campbell said. “So, yes — I take pride in the challenge of lining up and trying to shut him down.”
Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams also missed that game but is available for this one. The No. 5 seeded Ravens (11-5) have won five straight, including last week’s 38-3 rout of Cincinnati.
“Now we get to see them again in the same scenario,” Williams said. “Obviously, we have that sense in it, and we know what happened last year. And, obviously, we don’t want the same thing to happen.”
This game matches the NFL’s top two rushing offenses. The Ravens average 191.9 yards per game with QB Lamar Jackson, rookie J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. Their 3,071 yards rushing were third highest in NFL history. The Titans are second with 168.1 yards, and Tannehill matched Jackson with his own career-high seven TD runs. Henry also led the NFL with 17 rushing TDs.
Baltimore led the NFL with a plus-165 point differential, outscoring its opponents, 468-303. Jackson is the first QB in NFL history with 30 wins in his first 37 regular-season starts, but he’s 0-2 in the playoffs.
The Titans (11-5) have the hometown advantage this time around, though that may not help in a rivalry in which neither Baltimore nor Tennessee has won on its own field in four previous games. They do have Henry.
He just became the first back-to-back NFL rushing champ since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006-07 with a career-high 2,027 yards. Henry ran for a career-best 250 yards helping Tennessee clinch its first AFC South title since 2008 with a 41-38 win at Houston.
Now Henry is heading into the postseason, where he has really thrived. Only Terrell Davis (672) and John Riggins (640) have more rushing yards through a player’s first five postseason games than Henry (630).
“We all know what’s at stake,” Henry said. “Win or go home, and when you win you keep playing.”
Stopping Henry is merely the first priority for the Ravens’ defense. There’s also the matter of containing Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 3,819 yards with a career-high 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions during the regular season.
Tannehill may not carry the reputation of those stars, but he’s still a big threat throwing a pair of TD passes in each of the last two games against Baltimore.
“I think he’s much better than a lot of people have given him credit for over the years,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted.
The Ravens are making their third straight playoff trip and ninth in 13 years under Harbaugh. Meanwhile, this is the third playoff berth in four seasons for the Titans and second straight under third-year coach Mike Vrabel. Tennessee lost in the AFC Championship game last season.
The six first responders who evacuated residents before the Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville will be the “Honorary 12th Titans” on Sunday.
“While we can never thank these officers enough for their heroic acts, it is an absolute privilege to have the opportunity to honor them at the game on Sunday,” said Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill in a statement.
According to a news release, the six men and women — Officers Brenna Hosey, Tyler Luellen, Michael Sipos, Amanda Topping, James Wells, and Sergeant Timothy Miller — will not only attend the game but also plunge a sword into the field to mark the countdown to kickoff.
Titans players will continue to don the “615 Strong” helmet decal during the game, in a nod to the city’s area code. The number six is colored in Titans light blue to honor the six officers.