NASHVILLE — Baltimore defensive end Calais Campbell knows the time has arrived to prove why the team traded for him last March.
His opportunity comes Sunday afternoon in Nashville during the Ravens' latest clash with the Tennessee Titans and star running back Derrick Henry, this time with a spot in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs on the line.
Henry, who this season led the NFL in rushing for the second straight time, helped the Titans stun the Ravens a year ago in the divisional round as he ran for 195 yards, threw a touchdown pass and, on one play, even turned Baltimore safety Earl Thomas into his personal blocker with a stiff-arm move.
Baltimore — the AFC's top seed last season but this year the conference's top wild card — traded a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Campbell last March. The six-time Pro Bowl end did not play Nov. 22 in Baltimore, where Henry ran for 133 yards, including 89 on 10 carries in the fourth quarter and overtime, in a 30-24 win capped by his 29-yard touchdown 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 fifth-seeded Ravens (11-5) have won five straight, including last week's 38-3 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals.
"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."
The Titans (11-5), who won the AFC South for the first time since the 2008 season and are the conference's No. 4 seed, have the hometown advantage this time around, though that may not matter in a rivalry in which neither Baltimore nor Tennessee has won on its own field in the past four meetings.
They do have Henry, though.
With a career-high 2,027 yards, he just became the first back-to-back NFL rushing champ since LaDainian Tomlinson for the San Diego Chargers in 2006-07. Henry, who turned 27 this past Monday, ran for a career-best 250 yards in the regular-season finale last weekend while helping Tennessee clinch the division title with a 41-38 road win against the Houston Texans.
Henry now heads into the postseason, where he has really thrived, totaling 630 yards through his first five playoff games. The only players in NFL history with more rushing yards through their first five postseason games are Terrell Davis (672) and John Riggins (640).
"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, however. 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 other star quarterback in these playoffs — the list includes six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, eight-time Pro Bowl pick Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and even the Ravens' Lamar Jackson — but he's still a big threat. He has thrown a pair of touchdown passes in each of the past 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.
Although the Titans boast Henry, their rushing offense ranked second in the NFL during the regular season to Baltimore, which is led on the ground by Jackson (1,005 yards on 159 carries, seven touchdowns) and a standout tandem at running back with rookie J.K. Dobbins (805 on 134, nine touchdowns) and Gus Edwards (723 on 144, six touchdowns).
Jackson's 1,000-yard rushing season is his second since being taken by the Ravens as the final pick of the first round in the 2018 draft — no quarterback had ever done that — and in addition to being named the NFL's 2019 MVP, he is 30-7 in the regular season as Baltimore's starter. He is still searching for his first playoff victory, though, with the Ravens upset 23-17 by the Los Angeles Chargers during his rookie season two years ago before being stunned by Henry and the Titans in January 2019.
"I don't really care about what people have to say," Jackson said this past Wednesday, the day before he turned 24. "I've only been to the playoffs twice in my young career. Other people have been in the league forever and haven't been in the playoffs at all. But I'm definitely trying to erase that narrative right there. That's No. 1 right now on my mind, sure."
The Ravens overcame an outbreak of COVID-19 that forced Jackson and several others to miss at least one game and was the main culprit in a three-game skid that left Baltimore with a 6-5 record in December.
That's one big difference in this team from last year's squad, which entered the playoffs riding a 12-game winning streak. This group, Jackson said, grew stronger because of that rough stretch and is also drawing incentive from perhaps being a bit overlooked without a division title to celebrate.
"We're motivated from what went on, the adversity with the COVID-19 outbreak — some guys missing games because of it," Jackson said. "Our team is just hungry right now, and that's just what we need. We need to be hungry; we need to be doubted. I feel like we play better like that."