Jackson sparks Ravens over Titans, Brees sets up Brady showdown

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Lamar Jackson sparked a come-from-behind victory as the Baltimore Ravens gained revenge over the Tennessee Titans before the New Orleans Saints ground out a victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFL playoffs on Sunday.

Ravens quarterback Jackson threw for one touchdown and produced a dazzling 48-yard solo score to give the Ravens a hard-fought 20-13 win on the road at Nashville's Nissan Stadium.

The Ravens quarterback finished with 179 passing yards and 136 yards rushing.

It was the first postseason win of Jackson's career after two previous defeats, and the first time the reigning NFL MVP had helped his team overturn a double-digit deficit.

"It feels great," Jackson told ESPN afterwards. "I'm happy we got it done."

The win was especially sweet for the Ravens, who suffered a stunning upset defeat to the Titans in last season's playoffs after entering the post-season as the AFC's top-seeded team.

For periods on Sunday, it looked as if history was set to repeat itself as the Titans surged to an early 10-0 lead thanks to an A.J. Brown touchdown and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

With the Titans defense stifling Jackson, the Ravens were limited to a 33-yard field goal from Justin Tucker as half-time approached.

- 'We needed points' -

But the game was transformed with a moment of magic from Jackson when the 24-year-old spotted a gap and burst into space before accelerating away from the cover to dive in at the corner for a touchdown.

"That's one of the best runs I've ever seen," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

"It's the best run I've ever seen by a quarterback. We needed points at that point. It got us back in the game."

That solo effort made it 10-10 at the break, and Jackson then led the Ravens on a 10-play, 77-yard drive to open the third quarter that ended with J.K. Robbins blasting through a crowd of bodies for a touchdown.

The Ravens defense, meanwhile, had done a good job of containing the Titans' star running back Derrick Henry, who was restricted to just 40 yards throughout.

Gostkowski cut the Ravens' lead to four points with a 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Baltimore restored their seven-point cushion when Tucker nailed a 51-yard effort with 4:23 remaining to make it 20-13.

A late interception by Marcus Peters, picking off Ryan Tannehill's deep pass for receiver Kalif Raymond, sealed the Ravens win.

Who the Ravens face in the divisional round will be decided by the outcome of Sunday's other AFC playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

A win for the Steelers would leave the Ravens facing a daunting trip to top-seeded Kansas City, the reigning Super Bowl champions. If the Browns win, the Ravens will play the Buffalo Bills next weekend.

- Brees steers Saints -

In the NFC side of the playoffs on Sunday, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees kept alive his dream of a Super Bowl swansong as the Saints defeated Chicago 21-9 at the Superdome.

The 41-year-old Brees -- playing what could well be his final season in the NFL -- shepherded the Saints into a divisional round clash with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next weekend with a two-touchdown 265-yard performance.

The Saints made hard work of overcoming a Bears team who finished the regular season with an 8-8 record, however, and will likely need to raise their game against the Buccaneers.

Brees threw touchdowns to Michael Thomas in the first quarter and Latavius Murray in the third quarter before feeding running back Alvin Kamara for a three-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The New Orleans win means the Los Angeles Rams will travel to Lambeau Field to play the Green Bay Packers in the other NFC divisional game Saturday.