At least there was one meaningful thing to come out of Monday night's brutal 14-10 Tennessee Titans victory over the New York Jets.
Whatever playoff hopes the Jets had coming into the game were officially extinguished. How such a team still had playoff life entering Monday night's game was amazing, and certainly isn't a testimonial to the Titans season, as they entered the game long out of contention but improved to 5-9 in the process.
The Titans victimized woeful New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez four times on the night, twice each by Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin in falling to 6-8 on the year.
The Titans tried their best to give the game away as Brett Kern's final punt out of the end zone sailed out of bounds at the 32 yard line.
But on the first play with the ball back, the snap by Nick Mangold was low and Sanchez was unable to corral it with the Titans linebacker Zach Brown recovering to essentially end the game.
For the Titans, the victory wasn't exactly aesthetically pleasing, but after struggling for most of the season, they weren't about to be overly picky with the way things looked Monday night.
“We'll definitely take any win possible,” said receiver Kenny Britt, who followed up his best game of the year last week with one catch for seven yards.
It was that kind of night for the Titans, who had a 94-yard touchdown run from Chris Johnson and a 13-yard designed run from Jake Locker to show for their offensive efforts.
Through the air, Locker never found a rhythm, completing 13 of 22 for 149 yards and enduring four sacks. But the most important stat for the Titans and their young quarterback was that they won the turnover battle, not giving the ball away once despite a ragged performance that included 14 penalties for 111 yards.
Coach Mike Munchak agreed that while it wasn't the Titans' finest hour, the win was a welcome relief for a team that has struggled so often this season.
“It got sloppy along the way, but the bottom line is that we hung in there,” Munchak said, “something we hadn't been able to do the last two or three weeks of holding onto a lead or finding a way to win in the fourth quarter.”
Locker wasn't particularly sharp, but wasn't careless with the football, and with the help of his defense, managed to guide the Titans to the victory.
“I think was one of our keys coming into the game was to win the turnover battle,” said Locker, who had been victimized by seven turnovers over the past two games himself. “We did a great job of protecting the ball, taking care of it and not giving them momentum through turnovers.”
The same could not be said for the Jets, and the beleaguered Sanchez.
“We wanted their quarterback to make mistakes, which he did, and when their quarterback makes mistakes, we can win the game, which we did,” said Brown, who had two of the Titans three sacks of Sanchez.
Coming into the game, Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey had said Tennessee was going to “keep embarrassing” Sanchez, and on Monday night, they accomplished that goal and rattled the Jets quarterback into some costly mistakes.
“It felt like it toward the end,” defensive end Kamerion Wimbley said when asked if the Titans had rattled Sanchez. “We were able to get several interceptions at the end of the game. We were able to get the fumble that sealed the victory. I think we were able to get to him and jar him a little bit.”
Added Casey, “We got the job done. We got him to fumble and got him to throw four picks. Everything went the way we planned it out this week. We put the pressure on him and made the hits.”
It was enough that Jets coach Rex Ryan, who gave Tim Tebow one series in the second quarter and a few sporadic wildcat plays Monday night, was not saying who would be his quarterback next week against San Diego.
“I'm not ready to say who will be our quarterback next game. I am not ready to do that,” Ryan said.
While much of the attention in the game centered around the Jets' offensive woes, the Titans had their struggles as well, save for Johnson's sixth-career rushing touchdown of 80 yards or more that gave Tennessee a 7-3 lead, and a second-half drive put together that gave the Titans back the lead after New York had gone ahead 10-7 on Sanchez's lone highlight, a 17-yard TD toss to Jeff Cumberland.
Johnson's run was extra special, not only because of its distance but because he had written the names of the victims in the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy on his cleats before the game as a way to honor those lives lost.
“It's a situation where you have kids and wake up and see that kind of news, and you're kind of heartbroken,” Johnson said. “It was something to just try to give back as a tribute to those families, knowing how much they hurt. It's a situation where on Monday Night Football, everybody around the world is watching. It was much more meaningful, thinking about those kids all week and during the whole game.”
The Titans lost wide receiver Kendall Wright to a cracked rib as he tried to catch a deep pass from Locker and landed on Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Early in the game, Tennessee had yet another offensive lineman go down as Kevin Matthews was lost with a right ankle injury.
The Jets made one switch-up Monday night, using Tim Tebow for an entire second quarter series and also using him in the wildcat formation for several plays.
Tebow ran for 15 yards and was 0 for 1 passing.