Titans’ upset of Ravens in divisional playoffs could have been predicted based on an obscure NFL stat

Days before the Titans beat the Ravens 28-12 in the divisional round, the NFL shared a notable trend as part of its weekend preview. Baltimore in 2019 led the NFL with 3,296 rushing yards, the most by a team in a single season in NFL history; however, Titans running back Derrick Henry led the league in rushing with 1,540 yards. That meant Saturday’s game would mark the fourth time in the Super Bowl era the team with the top rushing offense would meet the team with the league’s leading rusher in the postseason.In each of the prior matchups, the team with the league’s leading rusher won the playoff game.MORE: Complete NFL playoff schedule, resultsSure enough, the Titans took care of the Ravens in a way nobody — except maybe the source of that stat — could have predicted.Now including the 26-year-old Henry and his 195 rushing yards on 30 carries against Baltimore, below is the list of NFL rushing champs who have bested (and in most cases, outgained) league-best ground games in the playoffs.YearRoundNo. 1 rusherRushing yardsNo. 1 rushing teamRushing yards1978DivisionalEarl Campbell (Oilers)118Patriots831992Super Bowl 27Emmitt Smith (Cowboys)108Bills1082018DivisionalEzekiel Elliott (Cowboys)137Seahawks732019DivisionalDerrick Henry (Titans)195Ravens185Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson led the team with 143 rushing yards on 20 carries. Running back Mark Ingram, who was plagued by a calf injury, managed just 22 yards on six carries.What was strange about the Titans’ upset of the Ravens as it relates to Henry was that they didn’t need much from the 6-3, 240-pound running back as they built a 14-0 lead early in the game. With a tipped-ball interception of Jackson and a wild touchdown catch from Jonnu Smith in the first quarter, plus a huge fourth-down stop and a 45-yard Ryan Tannehill TD pass to Kalif Raymond on the first two plays of the second, Tennessee was in business from the beginning.It was up to Henry, though, to seal the game. He all but did that with a 66-yard run midway through the third.KING HENRY GOING TO WORK 👑@KingHenry_2 | #TENvsBAL pic.twitter.com/ZjKZH0UTTo— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 12, 2020Three plays after Henry’s long run, he threw a touchdown on a jump pass to Corey Davis to give Tennessee a 21-6 lead. DERRICK HENRY JUMP PASS TOUCHDOWN!pic.twitter.com/kHEMpdcK8b— Sporting News (@sportingnews) January 12, 2020Henry was not the lone author of the Titans’ upset, of course. Tennessee’s defense forced Jackson into three turnovers (two picks and a lost fumble). Tannehill adequately protected the ball and was just good enough (7-of-14 passing, 88 yards, two TDs, 109.5 passer rating) for the Titans to move the ball the way they needed. That turnover margin, plus-3 in favor of Tennessee, was arguably more important than Henry’s ground production.But the running game absolutely was part of the anatomy of this upset. The best rushing offense the NFL has ever seen was outdone by a single Titans player in a playoff game.As great as Henry is, we didn’t see that coming. Considering the Ravens entered Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Titans as 10-point home favorites, we didn’t hesitate to predict a Baltimore win over Tennessee in both our picks against the spread and our straight-up picks for this weekend’s postseason games.Perhaps we should have paid more attention to a strange NFL stat that indicated Tennessee would pull off such a massive upset and reach the AFC championship game in shocking fashion. read more