Monday, September 28, 2009

Jets move to 3-0, drop Titans to 0-3

After the Jets beat the undefeated Titans in Week 12 last season to move to 8-3, many thought they were heading for the Super Bowl. After beating the winless Titans in a rainy Week 3 this season, well, it's still way too early to talk Super Bowl. But the Jets do look good.

New York came out firing in the first quarter, starting with a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive the ended in a Mark Sanchez 14-yard touchdown run. Sanchez scrambled out of the pocket, made a Titan defender miss and seemed to be stopped at the one. But he turned and extended the ball the short distance to the goalline before it was knocked out of his hands to put the Jets up 7-0.

Tennessee rookie returner Ryan Mouton fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Jets a short field to work with. Five plays and 19 yards later, Sanchez hit backup tight end Ben Hartsock after a nice play-action fake from two yards out to open up a two-score lead. The Jets held the ball for over 12 minutes in the quarter, ran 23 plays and racked up 128 total yards and nine first downs.

The second quarter, however, was a much different story. Tennessee recovered a Sanchez fumble at their own 45 and marched 55 yards in 10 plays, ending the drive with a LenDale White run from five yards out, the first touchdown allowed by the Jets defense this season. They would add a field goal before the half to go into the locker room down just 14-10.

The Titans controlled the ball for 11:09 in the second quarter and held the Jets to -3 total yards and no first downs to climb back into the game. Sanchez was great early, but struggled with the slick ball in the second quarter, having multiple passes slip off his fingers as well as the aforementioned fumble.

Tennessee came out firing to start the second half as well, putting together a seven-play, 60-yard drive to take the lead, as Kerry Collins made a perfect back-shoulder throw to Nate Washington in the endzone, beating good coverage from Dwight Lowery to put the Titans up 17-14.

The Jets went three-and-out on their next drive, as the offense continued to look stagnant after a hot start. The Titans did the same and held the Jets on their next drive as well but Mouton's tough day continued, as he muffed a fair catch allowing the Jets to recover at the Tennessee 23. Like any good team, the Jets would capitalize.

Four plays later, it was Sanchez hitting Jerricho Cotchery from six yards out for his third touchdown of the game and his second through the air. Sanchez barely gave the Titans defense a chance to react, dropping back for barely a second before hitting Cotchery on a quick slant between double coverage. Sanchez has bounced back well after any struggles he has had so far this season, and he continues to impress with his poise.

After retaking the lead, the Jets turned up the heat on the Tennessee offense, blitzing more frequently after playing somewhat conservative (by their standards) in the first half. The Jets held the Titans to just 52 yards on their next 23 plays and Collins didn't complete any of his last 13 passes, as he was victimized by drops all day by receivers Washington, Justin Gage and Kenny Britt.

Britt dropped a third-and-23 pass late in the fourth quarter that would've given the Titans a fourth-and-short opportunity, but played a solid game overall with four catches for 59 yards. Britt was working against Darrelle Revis for much of the day and fared better than Andre Johnson and Randy Moss did against the shut-down corner in the first two weeks of the season. He may not be there yet, but Britt will be a very good NFL player once he gets some more games under his belt.

While the Titans rookies didn't come up with big plays when they needed them, the Jets' rookie quarterback did. Early in the fourth quarter, Sanchez hit Cotchery for 46 yards down the left sideline to get the Jets in field goal range, where they took a 24-17 lead with 11:36 to play. Cotchery finished with a team-high eight catches for 108 yards.

Cotchery was well-covered on the play, but Sanchez dropped the ball to Cotchery's outside shoulder where only his receiver could make the play. Whatever questions they were before the draft about Sanchez's ability to throw deep down the field have been answered so far this season, as he has shown the ability to do just about everything a quarterback needs to do to have success in the NFL.

Sanchez finished 17-for-30 for 171 yards, three touchdowns (one rushing) and an interception that was tipped into the air off the fingertips of Chansi Stuckey. The ground game was quiet, racking up just 83 yards as Leon Washington had 46 of them on 12 carries. Thomas Jones struggled with just 20 yards on 14 carries, but had a long fourth-quarter run called back due to a holding penalty. Chris Johnson had 97 yards on 22 carries for the Titans, as the Jets allowed 100 yards on the ground for the first time this year.

One cause for concern for the Jets coming out of this game is third-down execution. They converted their first four third-down situations, but couldn't convert any of their last ten, finishing four-for-14. But New York proved they could hang on and win games even when they're not at their best, a good sign for the upcoming weeks.

Sanchez became the first rookie quarterback since the merger to start 3-0 and the Jets will have a chance to knock off another unbeaten team next week when they travel to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints offense, which took out the Bills 27-7 this past weekend.

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