Titans let Jets make mistakes, find a win
December, 18, 2012
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsJake Locker capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive with the winning 13-yard touchdown run.NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Minimizing mistakes and letting Mark Sanchez do his thing wound up a sufficient recipe for the Tennessee Titans to end a three-game losing streak and eke out a 14-10 win over the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."
The Titans weren’t trying for a work of art and don’t particularly care that people who watched it might have wound up with headaches.
With five takeaways by the defense (call them giveaways by Sanchez, who threw four picks and lost a fumble, if you prefer), the offense could have and should have done far more.
Instead, the game came down to Sanchez’s finale gaffe, a low shotgun snap he failed to scoop that running back Bilal Powell kicked and linebacker Zach Brown recovered to end it with 43 seconds left.
“So many times in this game we could have took advantage and put a drive together and put it away and not made it so hard for us to get the victory,” running back Chris Johnson said. “Out of all the turnovers they got for us, we never really put a drive together and made it easy on our defense.”
Said coach Mike Munchak: “You should win it by more points.”
Let’s break the Titans’ fifth win of the season into three sections:
C.J.’s record run: Second-and-9 from the Tennessee 6-yard line, 9:06 on the clock in the second quarter. Johnson took the handoff, brushed past center Kyle DeVan, who had turned nose guard Sione Po’uha to the left, and was gone, easily outracing Yeremiah Bell.
The Jets' eight-man box and pursuit at the snap left the defense too flat, and once Johnson got through the line, there was no hope of stopping him from setting a franchise record for longest run from scrimmage. Previously he shared the record of 91 yards with Sid Blanks (1964).
In the locker room, on his way to the shower, DeVan detoured to Johnson’s locker. He’d learned the run was a record and wanted to offer his congratulations.
DeVan was cut by the Titans on Aug. 31 after training camp. They brought him back on Halloween, and he’s been off the roster and back on three times since.
“It was fun to get in there and block for C.J,” DeVan said. “With how they play defense, we just had to get C.J. out to the next level, and we were able to do that on that play.”
Johnson’s season average per carry jumped from 4.55 to 4.93 with the play. His other 20 carries on the night got him 28 yards.
He now has six touchdown runs of 80 or more yards. No other player in NFL history has more than three.
Johnson paid his small tribute to the victims of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., by playing in shoes that had every victim's name written on them.
Locker’s defining drive: This marked Jake Locker's ninth NFL start, and he has yet to really produce a defining moment.
The go-ahead drive that produced the winning margin in this game will hold that title for the time being.
The Jets had just taken a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter, and the Titans got a 35-yard kickoff return from Darius Reynaud. Locker took Tennessee 64 yards in seven plays over 2 minutes and 59 seconds. He had passes of 21, 12 and 13 yards before taking a shotgun snap and heading left behind a convoy that helped him get into the end zone on a quarterback sweep.
The Titans didn’t even face a third down on the drive.
“I thought it was crisp, there was a lot of tempo, there weren’t any mental mistakes,” Locker said. “We executed really well. When you do those things, that’s what you’re capable of doing. We need to find ways to multiply that throughout a game.”
Tennessee converted just 2 of 13 third downs and was flagged for 14 penalties for 111 yards. Multiplying good drives can start with major changes in those two departments.
Plenty of picks: Two defensive backs who got big contract extensions in the recent past had big nights.
Cornerback Jason McCourty and safety Michael Griffin each tracked Sanchez for two picks.
“We knew coming into the game they were going to pound the ball, and we knew when they put the ball in the air, we were going to have opportunities to make plays,” McCourty said. "... The last few games it just seemed like they were pounding the ball, pounding the ball on the ground. They came out and threw the ball a few more times than we expected. We were able to make some plays on the ball in the air, and that gave us a chance.”
The takeaways were a lot more about point prevention than point production. Griffin’s second pick came on a ball throw from the Titans’ 23-yard line, and Brown’s fumble recovery was at the Titans’ 32.
The Titans' offense followed up the four interceptions with a grand total of 14 plays, 26 yards, 7:50 with the ball and four punts.
“We managed not to give them momentum with turnovers,” Locker said, finding the positive.