What a wild win for the Titans. It will be remembered for some incredulous looks among all of us in the press box, in particular the New York media reacting time and again on the ineptitude of the Jets and Quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Titans will get the satisfaction of delivering the dagger that ended the Jets faint hopes of making the playoffs (I know, I know-- how in the world were the Jets ever in playoff contention?). That is well worth the draft spot or two it will cost them. It will also set an unofficial record for the most combined wisecracks on Twitter from the Nashville, New York, and National media in any sporting event. Even our own Joe Dubin was outdone tonight. My favorite zinger, by Jets legend Joe Namath (@RealJoeNamath), after an early Sanchez pass sailed way over his intended target and right into Jason McCourty's arms for an easy pick: "Slight Overthrow".
Many pundits went with the knee- jerk reaction of "worst Monday Night Football Game Ever". But my candidate is still October 24, 1983. Giants 20 Cardinals 20 in St. Louis. Two brutal teams fight it out to the only tie EVER on Monday Night. But the best part: Cardinals Kicker Neil O'Donohue missed THREE FG's IN THE OT period! One was from extra point distance! But I digress. Amid the nuttiness, here are some things the Titans can take from this one:
1. Kenny Britt could not shake Antonio Cromartie. As expected, Cromartie stayed on Britt all night, and Britt had trouble getting separation. Just one catch on 3 targets for 7 yards. Tough test, but it would have been nice to see Britt have more success. Back to the drawing board.
2. Credit Titans OC Dowell Loggains for throwing in some creativity. While it was not a pretty night for the Titans offense, the Jets do have a very good defense. Loggains put in some new looks designed to utilize Locker's mobility with mixed results. There was a conventional option (Locker made an ill-advised pitch for a big loss on a key 3rd and 1), a couple VY/Texas Longhorn style read options with CJ (nothing big but certainly plants the seed for the future), a bunch of designed rollouts, QB draws, and the gem of the night--- the QB sweep for the eventual winning TD (Complete with CJ's lead block). Mike Munchak said after the game that this was something they wanted to do more of prior to Locker's injury, but they have been concerned that he wouldn't be able to sustain the extra hits since his return. But now that the season's finish line is near (and the coaches are trying desperately to make a good last impression) they have thrown caution to the wind. Locker is comfortable on the move, so look for the Titans to stick with these ideas.
3. The headlines will go to Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin (two picks each), but I'm more interested in the continued improvement of Derrick Morgan, Akeem Ayers, and Zack Brown. The Titans defense overcame some early confusion and some horrendous penalties to basically shut down the Jets (Yes I know, it was the Jets. Let's talk next week after the trip to Lambeau..). The key was the consistent pressure on Sanchez. Ayers has become a very reliable rusher from the outside which has changed the dynamic of the pass rush. Morgan looked like a bust early in the season, but is now showing signs of life. Brown has made huge strides since the beginning of the season (2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and the game winning fumble recovery tonight). The Titans have more than doubled their season sack total in the last 5 games. They aren't there yet, but I can see the possibility of a winning LB core of Brown, Ayers, and a healthy Colin McCarthy perhaps materializing. The hope would be for this young group to be good enough as a nucleus so that the addition of one dynamic defensive weapon (be it a Haynesworth type DT, a Kearse like pass rushing monster, or an Ed Reed-esque safety) would push them into the top half of the league.
4. Chris Johnson has to be part of the team next year. It was feast or famine tonight, with only 4 or 5 decent runs (94 yards on one play- 28 yards combined on the other 20 carries). But remember the Titans OLine is in shambles, and the Jets have done well against the run all year. Journeyman Kyle DeVan had just checked in at Center after the injury to Kevin Matthews (what is that 37 offensive lineman that have now been hurt going back to Eugene Amano in training camp?) and delivered a key block to help spring CJ on the "Upper Deck" Home Run of 94 yards-- the longest run in franchise history. CJ now has by far the most 80 plus yard TD runs in NFL history. I feel as if he has gained some wisdom this year that he didn't have in the past. He seems more at ease with the up's and down's. Perhaps the adversity he had to go through last year and early this year has made him stronger. He's not the perfect back, and he is probably overpaid, but he has re-established himself as a viable weapon, and casting him aside at this point seems ludicrous. I don't see an alternative.
Keeping this win in perspective will be the key. It was a Christmas gift from the Jets. As Mike Munchak said "When you get 5 turnovers, the score shouldn't be 14-10". The Titans had chances to put the Jets out of their misery much earlier. There is still a long way to go. But it is nice to have something positive happen as the team tries to build hope for next season.
Photo: Associated Press