NASHVILLE – It was an old-fashioned game of catch for Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Kenny Britt, and it was rarely interrupted by the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary.
Hasselbeck picked apart the Ravens’ defense during a 26-13 victory Sunday at LP Field, connecting with Britt for a career-high nine receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Britt’s superior size and speed confounded the Baltimore defensive backs.
"He’s tough for the reasons everybody knows he’s tough," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "He’s a big guy and he’s strong and he’s fast. I don’t know what else you could ask for a receiver. He has all the tools and he showcased them."
Already this season, Hasselbeck and Britt have combined for 14 receptions, 271 yards and three touchdowns even while they just begin to develop their chemistry.
While wide receiver Nate Washington caught seven passes for 99 yards, it was Britt who made the difference for the Titans.
His consecutive catches set up the Titans’ first touchdown, a four-yard score lobbed to him.
Britt also caught two passes for 27 yards on the Titans’ second scoring drive, catching passes on former NFL Defensive Player of the Year free safety Ed Reed.
And it was Britt who beat the Ravens for a 28-yard reception on third down to lead to the Titans’ final score of the fourth quarter.
"They were on good timing, Hasselbeck and Kenny Britt were on the same page," said cornerback Lardarius Webb, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles. "They got the ball out real quick. There are a lot of guys like Britt, this is the NFL. He had a great game.
"He’s not God, but he had a great game. We learn from this. We learn how to go against this great wide receiver.
We’re going to look at film and learn exactly what we did wrong and what we could have done better."
Hasselbeck completed 30 of 42 passes for 358 yards, one touchdown and one interception from outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"We didn’t get it done on the back end, and Hasselbeck is a good player," Foxworth said. "If you give him confidence early, it’s hard to rein him back in. He was making the right decisions. The one interception we got was a tipped ball. There weren’t too many close ones."
The Titans averaged 8.5 yards per passing attempt.
"I don’t think we made plays," Foxworth said. "We had our opportunities, but Hasselbeck is a smart guy and he’s not going to throw into coverage too often. Our job is to be one step ahead of him and be aggressive and we weren’t."
STOPPING CJ: Shutting down Titans star running back Chris Johnson is something of a hollow accomplishment for the Ravens’ defense considering the outcome of the game.
The Ravens bottled up the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher, limiting him to only 53 yards on 24 carries.
"Anytime you have a homerun hitter like that, that is the focus," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "The focus was Chris Johnson and we got after him. That is a credit to everything we focused on. They went away from that. They saw that we were really getting after him and they started throwing the ball."
Johnson averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and had a long run of seven yards, catching just three passes for 12 yards.
"You let him get an edge on you, you let him get the corner on you and he is out of the gate," Lewis said. "Integrity-wise, we attacked the gaps very well and everybody won their one-on-one battles in the run game."
GRUBBS SIDELINED: Starting left offensive guard Ben Grubbs was sidelined for the first time in his career due to a right toe injury.
Grubbs had previously appeared in 65 consecutive games and was replaced in the lineup by former New England Patriots lineman Mark LeVoir.
"I wanted to be smart," Grubbs said. "The last thing I wanted to do was go to out there and hurt my team. If I made the decision to play, I wanted to be as close to 100 percent as possible and I just felt like I wasn’t there."
Grubbs was noncommittal on whether he’ll play next Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
"Next week is a long ways away," Grubbs said. "We’ll take it day by day. I’ll continue to go hard in the training room. We’ll see how it feels Monday. Hopefully, I’ll be running around."
LeVoir got the starting nod over five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, who’s listed on the depth chart as the backup to center Matt Birk and at both guard spots.
"Mark’s more of a guard, Andre is more of a center," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Mark’s more of a tackle-guard. Andre has been playing center for most of his career. I think Mark is further along at guard."
LeVoir had a fairly uneventful game, allowing little penetration up the middle.
"Obviously, not as good as we would like since we didn’t win," LeVoir said. "We’ve got to learn from this and move on. We played hard, but we just didn’t play well enough."
ROUGH GAME: It wasn’t a banner game for the offensive line as far as pass protection as quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked three times.
Flacco was only sacked once against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season-opener.
"We’ve got to get better," said right offensive tackle Michael Oher, who also committed a false-start penalty. "I’ve got to watch the film and see what happened."
Titans backup defensive end Dave Ball had four tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits.
And former first-round defensive end Derrick Morgan also had a sack as well as defensive tackle Karl Klug.
"I didn’t block Ball," Oher said. "I don’t think I went up against him. They’re a good defense. They played tough, they played hard."
Left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said the Ravens were well-prepared for the Titans’ aggressive 4-3 scheme.
"We watched film, we studied," he said. "They just made more plays than we did. I feel like we had the same kind of intensity as we did last week. The results were different. We have to take this as a learning experience. We didn’t do a great job."
HURTING RAVENS: It was a frustrating, painful game for the Baltimore Ravens beyond their 26-13 loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans. Wide receiver and kick returner David Reed said he injured the AC joint in his left shoulder and his arm is in a sling. He’ll undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine the extent of the damage to an injury characterized as a shoulder strain by a team official.
"It’s an AC joint, I never even got injured before I got to the NFL, and now I’ve got all these injuries," said Reed, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. "It’s not me. It’s very, very unfortunate."
Reed led the NFL with a 29.3 kickoff return average as a rookie and set a franchise record with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in an overtime win over the Houston Texans.
"I will do whatever I can to get back," Reed said. "I’m praying I’ll be back soon."
Nose guard Terrence Cody suffered a concussion and didn’t return.
After the game, wide receiver Lee Evans was soaking his injured left ankle and foot in a bucket of ice.
The injury has plagued him since the preseason.
"I can’t say I’m 100 percent," Evans said. "I’m giving it what I got."
Fullback Vonta Leach was limping in the first half due to a foot issue, but said it isn’t serious.
"I feel fine," he said. "I’m good."
QUICK HITS: Besides Grubbs, the Ravens deactivated rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss, rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith (left high-ankle sprain), cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring), cornerback Chykie Brown, nose guard Brandon McKinnie and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle. Cornerback Danny Gorrer was promoted from the practice squad Saturday when the Ravens cut linebacker Jason Phillips, and Gorrer was active ahead of Brown. … The Titans scratched quarterback Rusty Smith, wide receiver Damian Williams, safety Chris Hope (dislocated shoulder), former Ravens cornerback Chris Hawkins, center Kevin Matthews, offensive tackle Byron Stingily and defensive end William Hayes. … Kindle declined to comment when asked if he was served papers for a $130,000 lawsuit filed by a Nashville lawyer on behalf of a Minnesota bank. .. Gurode said he’ll remain patient and wait for an opportunity. "I just stayed positive," Gurode said. "I knew that at any second something could happen. I was one play away from playing."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times