Ups and downs, highs and lows, and everything in between. The New York Jets emerged victorious after a hard-fought battle against the desperate Tennessee Titans, improving to 3-0 and leaving Tennessee winless.
“Their record is not indicative of how tough that team is,” said Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez of his opponents.
Throwing for 171 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, Sanchez had his struggles against a proud defense looking to prove the Titans are better than their record.
The fifth-overall draft pick capped off a strong opening drive with a 14-yard scamper to the end zone and followed it up less than three minutes later with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Hartsock on a convincing play-action fake.
Then Sanchez started to look a little like a rookie. The wet weather forced him into mistakes as the Titans’ defense pushed the Jets into five consecutive three-and-out drives.
It was the NFL’s top-ranked defense at the start of Week 3 that salvaged the game for New York. It bent for quarterback Kerry Collins, but never broke for running back Chris Johnson.
When there was a game to be won, linebacker David Harris stepped up to intercept Collins to end one drive and sack him for an eight-yard loss to stifle the Titans’ comeback bid in another.
There May Be a Kitchen Sink Out There, Too
When Kerry Collins was named the starter in Tennessee, the expectation was that he’d be the game manager for a strong running team with a ragtag crop of receivers. At 36, Collins played that role well for the Titans, working more diligently than anyone in an effort to secure his team’s first victory.
Sure, he may have thrown 13 consecutive incompletions as the offense stalled Tennessee’s attempt at a fourth quarter rally, but Collins stands out for throwing directly at Darrelle Revis, challenging the cornerback who Matt Schaub and Tom Brady avoided in previous weeks.
Ultimately, Collins opened the run game with his passing, threw two touchdowns, and allowed Johnson to dash for 97 yards while LenDale White smashed for the first offensive touchdown scored against the Jets this season.
Tennessee’s defense didn’t let New York off the hook, either.
The Jets’ offensive line had an all-pro opening drive, but couldn’t open any holes big enough for Thomas Jones.
Tennessee showed that adapting to life after Albert Haynesworth is simple enough, limiting Jones to a dismal 20 yards rushing on 14 carries, while the defensive ends applied consistent pressure, flushing Sanchez out of the pocket to end drives.
The Titans’ secondary, featuring three Pro Bowl defensive backs, succeeded in not allowing a 300-yard passer for the first time this season, an accomplishment even though Sanchez is a rookie quarterback.
“How Dare You?”
The season is young, and with youth comes questions as to the reality of a team’s abilities. For New York, every contest has been about finding out who the real Jets are while pundits hesitate to acknowledge the impressive nature of their victories.
The reality of Tennessee’s talent should only serve as a testament to the quality of the new, New York Jets.
Gang Green didn’t squeak by with a sloppy victory—they created opportunities, taking advantage of mental errors, particularly at critical moments in the game.
“We’ve played three outstanding football teams. We’re 3-0, right here, maybe that says something about us,” said coach Rex Ryan during the Jets’ postgame press conference.
“For anyone out there who thinks this is a gimmick defense, that this is a defense that can’t play smash mouth: How dare you?” asked linebacker Bart Scott.
“This team’s built on tough, gritty players that can adjust to any style of football.”