NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In one corner was the illustrious Ray Lewis. In the other were two total unknowns. Together, they sent the Baltimore Ravens into the AFC title game.
Baltimore's Keith Washington blocked a field-goal attempt and Anthony Mitchell returned it 90 yards for the go-ahead score as the Ravens again brought out the worst in Al Del Greco in beating the Tennessee Titans 24-10 on Sunday.
Lewis, the NFL's defensive player of the year, clinched it with a 50-yard interception return after wresting the ball from the arms of Eddie George. The two TD returns accounted for more yards than Baltimore's offense, which was held to 134 yards.
The Ravens (14-4) now go to Oakland to play the Raiders next Sunday in the conference title game, the first time the franchise has been that far since the then-Cleveland Browns lost to Denver in 1986, 1987 and 1989.
The Titans, who were a yard away from tying the Super Bowl last season, go home after posting the NFL's best regular-season record at 13-3 to ponder how to add punch to their offense.
Mitchell, a former NFL Europe player, and Washington, who has one start in parts of six NFL seasons, turned the game. And Lewis clearly dominated on defense.
But Tennessee also had its problems. Backup safety Dainon Sidney had 40 yards in penalties on special teams that cost the Titans field position at the game's most crucial stages.
And Del Greco failed again, as he did in Tennessee's only other loss in 18 games at Adelphia Coliseum, a 24-23 defeat to these same Ravens on Nov. 12. In that game, he missed an extra point and a potential game-winning field goal.
Not only did his blocked attempt result in Baltimore's winning score Sunday, but he had another field-goal attempt blocked by Washington and hit the left upright with a 31-yarder just before halftime. In a game between the NFL's two best defensive teams statistically, those points were critical.
And this game was indeed dominated by defense.
The Titans scored on the first possession of the game, driving 68 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard plunge by George.
But the only times they got close after that were on two blocked punts by rookie Chris Coleman, and they got only three points. Baltimore tied it at 7-7 in the second quarter when Jamal Lewis scored on a 1-yard run after a 56-yard pass from Trent Dilfer to an open Shannon Sharpe.
The game was tied 10-10 as the fourth quarter opened with the Titans driving.
But they fell a yard short at the Baltimore 19 and Del Greco, one of the NFL's most accurate kickers in his 17-year career, came in to try from 37 yards.
Instead, the game turned the other way.
Washington leaped and blocked the ball, which went high into the air toward the goal line and right into the arms of Mitchell, a third-string safety. He turned right, headed up the sideline, and was barely touched by a Titan.
A little more than five minutes later, with 6:41 left, Steve McNair aimed for George. Lewis, who had been trash talking his fellow All-Pro all day, grabbed the ball as it bounced off George's arms and took off down the left sideline to clinch it.
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