No two sides of a rivalry are equal.
For example, folks in Jacksonville find great joy when the Jaguars defeat the Tennessee Titans as they did last Sunday. That’s because the Jaguars lost just three times back in 1999 – all of them to the Titans and the last of those in the AFC championship game.
It is the losses that fuel the passions that make a rivalry. It is the feeling that something has been taken from you that creates a need to try and even the score somehow, some way.
That’s what makes Sunday’s game between the Titans and Baltimore Ravens at LP Field (1 p.m., CBS) such a big deal. No team has taken more from the Titans than the Ravens, who started this week celebrating a big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers – a team their fans love to hate.
“It’s not a division game but it’s as close as it gets for us,” coach Mike Munchak said. “ … We know that they have knocked us out of two games in the last 10 years in the playoffs. We beat them once in the playoffs. They beat us twice. We know the rivalry that went on with Eddie George and Ray Lewis and that whole group back in the day.
“… We just need to go out and play our best. We are highly motivated and we should be. We are going to have a sellout crowd, we are at home for the first time, it’s the first time for fans to see us up close in a real game and there is no better team to beat than these guys.”
Consider all the things the Ravens have taken from the Titans:
• Since the franchise moved into LP Field at the start of the 1999 season, the stadium has hosted four playoff games. The Titans won two and lost two and both defeats were to Baltimore.
• To make matters worse, in both of those seasons (2000 and 2008) Tennessee had the league’s best regular-season record and had earned homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
* The Titans won their first 12 regular-season contests at LP Field before the Ravens came in and beat them 24-23 on Nov. 12, 2000. In all, Baltimore has won five of the last six there.
• The first time Tennessee lost a Monday Night Football game at LP Field was Nov. 12, 2001 (one year to the day after their first regular-season defeat) – a 16-10 loss to the Ravens complete with a confounding referee’s ruling after it appeared the home team had scored a game-winning touchdown on the final play of the contest.
• Then there were the players. When salary cap concerns caused the Titans to cut loose some significant players in 2005, Baltimore scooped up Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle. A year later, when Steve McNair’s contract became untenable, his agent was given permission to seek a trade and it was the Ravens who got him.
The icing on that cake came on Nov. 12, 2006 (there’s that date again) when the Ravens came to town and won 27-26 on a McNair-to-Mason touchdown pass with 3:35 to play.
“I kind of like playing there,” Baltimore’s Lewis said. “It’s a grass stadium, and they have a great fan base that gets very rowdy there. And me going back there so many years back, I don’t think anything is going to change.
“It’s their home opener, and I just think it’s going to be real, real loud. But I do remember that stadium, yeah.”
Lewis is one of the few on either side of this rivalry who has been around for all of the Titans’ heartbreak. In fact, he’s directly responsible for some of it.
Virtually anyone who has been on the Tennessee side of it for anytime has a reason to want a victory in this one more than many other regular-season contests.