Titans' all-too-familiar formula puts Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game

BALTIMORE -- The Tennessee Titans did the unthinkable, handing the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens a 28-12 loss in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

The Titans advance to the AFC Championship Game next Sunday, where they'll face the winner of the Houston Texans-Kansas City Chiefs game. Tennessee's mantra, "Why Not Us," has been its rallying cry during the postseason. Now, that question is getting closer to having an answer.

The Titans' formula for winning consists of a steady dose of running back Derrick Henry, the NFL's leading rusher this season, and stout defense mixed in with an efficient performance by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Henry's tear continues as he picked up 195 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Henry's record-setting day was one for the ages. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he became the first player in NFL postseason history to record back-to-back games with at least 175 rushing yards. It was the third time Henry gained more than 150 yards in a postseason game, second most in NFL postseason history (Terrell Davis did it four times). For good measure, Henry added a 3-yard pass to Corey Davis for a touchdown out of the Wildcat formation.

Describe the game in two words: Defensive genius. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees orchestrated the perfect game plan to stop what had been a red-hot Ravens offense. Quarterback Lamar Jackson did rush for over 100 yards, but his dynamic playmaking ability was limited and the Titans' defense forced three turnovers.

QB breakdown: Tannehill was effective even though he didn't fill the box score. He threw a perfect pass to Jonnu Smith for one of his two touchdowns, showing confidence in his tight end to come up with the score. His throw to Kalif Raymond for a 45-yard touchdown hit the speedy wideout perfectly as he dove into the end zone. Tannehill continues to do enough to complement Henry's rushing attack.

Promising trend: Henry once again was the catalyst in Tennessee's ability to neutralize a volatile crowd. Henry had 137 rush yards after contact Saturday, the most in a game over the past 10 postseasons. No matter who wins between the Texans and Chiefs, the Titans will play the AFC Championship Game on the road.

Pivotal play: Kevin Byard's interception of a pass that bounced off of Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caused a total momentum shift in the game. The Ravens' offense was driving before Byard's interception on Tennessee's 36-yard line set up the Titans' first touchdown drive. The drive was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Smith to give the Titans a 7-0 lead.

Bold prediction for next week: Henry will continue to be on fire and gain over 125 yards rushing for the third game in a row regardless of whom the Titans face in the AFC Championship Game.