At a time when the forward pass is the preferred option for most NFL offenses, this one was a throwback in that neither the Tennessee Titans nor New York Jets threw it very well.
At least the Titans could run it — on occasion — and hold on to it.
Chris Johnson added to his legacy of long touchdown carries and Jake Locker ran it in for the first time this season in a 14-10 victory Monday that hardly dazzled the announced sellout crowd at LP Field or the Monday Night Football national television audience. Each touchdown brought the Titans from behind and together they were enough to snap a three-game losing streak.
Locker’s 13-yard run, with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter on a designed quarterback sweep, was the game-winner and capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive that came immediately after the Jets had gone in front.
“You have to find points where you can in games like that,” Locker said. “We didn’t do a great job of that, but we did what we needed to.”
Four interceptions, two each by Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin, did not lead to any points but added to the struggles of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who already had fallen from favor with much of his team’s faithful. It also helped offset the effects of a season-high 14 penalties that cost Tennessee 111 yards.
Finally a fumbled shotgun snap by Sanchez at the Tennessee 25 with 47 seconds to play, recovered by linebacker Zach Brown, sealed the deal.
“It got sloppy along the way but the bottom line is we hung in there, which we haven’t been able to do the last two or three weeks,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… It’s just good to win again. It’s been a while and it feels good to win.”
Along the way the Jets spelled Sanchez with Tim Tebow sporadically, mostly from the wildcat formation but got little of consequence from either. Sanchez was 13-for-28 passing for 131 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and the fumble. Tebow ran it three times for 15 yards, was sacked once and threw incomplete on his only official pass attempt.
With the loss New York officially was eliminated from playoff contention.
“When you get five turnovers it shouldn’t be 14-10,” Munchak said. “We should have had a chance to put this game away with the way the defense was playing and unfortunately we didn’t. The bottom line is we hung together enough to where we won this one.”
Much attention was paid to Johnson’s feet throughout the day when it was revealed that he had written the names of victims in last week’s Newton, Conn. shooting on his shoes. He created additional attention when he set a franchise record with a 94-yard touchdown run that gave the Titans a 7-3 lead with 8:53 to play in the second quarter.
He said he planned the auction off the shoes to benefit the shooting victims.
“[It was] that much more meaningful,” Johnson said. “I just was thinking about those kids all week and the whole game. … I don’t care who you [are], anytime you have kids you just think about that situation. It’s real tough and it tells you how blessed you are to be able to see your kids every day.”
It was the sixth touchdown run of his career of 80 yards or more, which extended his NFL record. It also made him one of three players in NFL history — Oakland’s Bo Jackson and Green Bay’s Ahman Green are the others — with two runs of 90 yards or more.
It also accounted for the bulk of the offense on a night when neither side managed 300 yards of total offense and both got more on the ground than through the air. The Jets had 253 total yards, 146 rushing and the Titans had 294 total yards, 167 rushing.
Johnson finished with 122 yards on 21 carries, which means he picked up just 28 yards on his other 20 attempts. Locker added 43 yards on seven runs.
“You have to give Tennessee credit,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “They made the plays. Locker did a good job running with the football and so did Johnson. And then the obvious — five turnovers.
“This was a huge game for us and to turn it over five times … it was extremely disappointing to say the least.”