We have seen teams like these Titans before, teams that believe in themselves when no one else can find a reason to believe in them.
Underdogs who play the respect card. Road Warriors who cry, “Why Not Us?” You get hot at the right time, you find a Ground & Pound formula centered around beastly Derrick Henry that works, and you can dare dream The Impossible Dream.
And so here stand the Titans, last ones invited to the Tournament, 60 minutes from Super Bowl XLIV.
After the way they dismantled Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Saturday night, you better believe they can win a championship.
A message to those who continue to doubt the Titans:
Remember the Giants.
Remember the 2007 Giants. Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin had yet to win a playoff game together when they showed up in Tampa as a wild card and upset Jon Gruden’s Bucs.
“I do believe that the idea that these guys are having fun right now is very important,” Coughlin said after Giants 24, Bucs 14.
Manning (20-27, 185 yards, 2 TDs) played the part of the game manager.
“If anything, it is just the focus on the time of the year to be at your very best is right now,” Coughlin said.
Tony Romo and the top-seeded Cowboys were next. The fifth-seeded Giants had been swept by them in the regular season. Jerry Jones was so confident that he gave each player two tickets for their friends and family for the NFC Championship game. Jones cried after R.J. McQuarters intercepted Romo in the end zone at the end.
“No one’s given us much credit and probably still won’t,” Manning said. “But that’s OK. We like it that way.”
Manning was 12 of 18 for 163 yards and two touchdowns to Amani Toomer.
“Everybody goes through their ups and downs and he’s on the upswing right now,” Toomer said. “We’re going to ride him as far as we can go.”
Brett Favre and arctic Lambeau Field awaited for the NFC Championship game. Brandon Jacobs, the Giants’ equivalent of Henry, trucked Charles Woodson on the opening drive.
“That hit said, ‘Hey, it’s not that cold out here today, and we’re here to play,’ ” Manning said.
And then … Coughlin’s red face … Corey Webster intercepting Favre in OT … Lawrence Tynes redeeming himself for two missed FGs with the 47-yard game-winner: Giants 23, Packers 20.
Manning finished 21 of 40 for 251 yards.
“We haven’t been given a shot, but we’re here and I think we’re deserving of it,” Manning said. “Right now I’m excited as I can be.”
He also would say: “It’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time. It feels good because this is what you work for. We stuck with it, we believed in ourselves and we got to the Super Bowl.”
No one gave them a chance in Super Bowl XLII against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and the Perfect Patriots. Manning-to-David Tyree … Manning-to-Plaxico Burress: Giants 17, Patriots 14.
“Anytime you have a team that’s 18-0 … stop and think about that,” Coughlin said. “That’s just an incredible accomplishment for them. But every team is beatable. You never know. The right moment, the right time … every team is beatable.”
Manning, 19 of 34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception said: “We believed the whole time.”
Antonio Pierce said, “We shocked the world. But not ourselves.”
The Titans, of course, will have to upset Patrick Mahomes in raging-red Arrowhead Stadium to reach the Super Bowl. They have found a formula that works for them: a mistake-free quarterback who manages the game in Ryan Tannehill, an intimidating freight train named Henry bloodying noses behind nasty Hog Mollies and a bunch of junkyard dogs playing as one and executing defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ game plan to perfection.
Doubt the Titans at your own peril.
Remember the Giants.