NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Johnson's rookie season ended at Baltimore with his ankle injured so much he missed the Pro Bowl.
To Eddie George, a divisional round loss to the Ravens after the 2000 season ranks as possibly his most painful.
The Titans playing the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round on Saturday night has revived strong memories of an intense and bitter rivalry along with the agony of possible Super Bowl titles lost.
“Only thing I can say this could be a revenge game for us,” Johnson said.
In both 2000 and 2008, Tennessee had both the NFL's best record and the AFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs with Baltimore the wild-card team. This time around, the roles have reversed with Baltimore (14-2) the AFC's top seed and the favorite to reach the Super Bowl and the Titans (10-7) coming in off a big wild-card victory.
“All I have to say is my neck started getting real tight,” former Titans safety Blaine Bishop said. “I mean it’s just a lot of bad blood with the Ravens."
Bishop was with the Titans who rode the “Music City Miracle” to a close loss in the Super Bowl. The Titans followed up by going 13-3 in the 2000 season, determined to win the championship that eluded them months before.
“And that's why the Ravens have a dagger in my era of players because they took away the Super Bowl we felt like we should've gotten,” Bishop said of a 24-10 loss to a Baltimore team that went on to win the Lombardi Trophy.
George got some payback against the Ravens in January 2004 in a wild-card win in Baltimore when he strapped up an injured shoulder and returned for a big win. He played his last game in a Titans' uniform the next week in a divisional loss in New England, but that divisional loss to Baltimore still stands out.
“It was probably the worst loss that I've ever had because of the emotional ties to it as well as knowing whoever won that game was not only going to the Super Bowl but was going to win the Super Bowl, was going to be the Super Bowl champions because both teams were just that dominant,” George said.
In 2008, the Titans had a 10-game winning streak and again went 13-3. Against the Ravens, a couple of moments still stick out from a 13-10 divisional loss:
— Baltimore defenders seen twisting Johnson's ankle after a whistle with no flag thrown knocking him out of the game after he had 11 carries for 72 yards in the first half. “It was plays before that and all that stuff after the whistle, bending me back, trying to twist my ankles under the pile and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “Then that happened. It was just crazy.”
— Then the play clock expired before the snap on third-and-2 with 2:51 left. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed a 23-yard pass to Todd Heap with no flag. That set up Matt Stover's game-winning field goal with 57 seconds left.
Derrick Mason played for the Titans against the Ravens in the 2000 divisional loss and the 2003 wild-card win. He said it felt weird coming back to Nashville in the playoffs wearing Ravens' purple after being a salary cap casualty in Tennessee. Mason scored the Ravens' lone TD in that game and he now lives in Nashville where he works in radio. He called the play clock issue something that can happen in a game.
“Just that one play a referee possibly missing a delay of game call that pretty much helped us win that football game that year,” Mason said.
That was John Harbaugh's first season as the Ravens' coach, which ended in the AFC championship. His memories include Jim Leonard recovering a fumble at the Ravens 6 with 8:57 left and Stover's game-winning field goal.
“I remember the locker room celebration like it was yesterday," Harbaugh said this week. "It was quite a moment. My dad was there. I remember turning around at the end and seeing my dad, and boy, what a big smile. He just gave me the biggest hug. He was proud.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel isn't concerned with the past since he never played for either team.
“We have to focus on the Ravens of 2019,” Vrabel said.
The Ravens lead the overall series 12-11, and the road team has won all three playoff games to date.
“Only fitting you have to go through Baltimore in Baltimore to get a victory for the Titans,” Bishop said.
AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg contributed to this report.
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