One day after the Jets' 34-31 overtime victory over the New England Patriots which vaulted the Jets (7-3) into first place in the AFC East, head coach Eric Mangini carefully pinpointed the relaxed atmosphere on the plane ride back to New Jersey.
"It was a very good mood on the plane ride home," Mangini said. "It has felt long sometimes in the past, but this one felt very short."
But beyond the excitement over beating the rival Patriots for just the third time in the last 13 meetings was the anticipation of carrying the recent success further into the season. The win gave the Jets their fifth victory in the last six games and suddenly catapulted them among the top of the AFC standings.
"What I like about it is as happy as everybody was with the victory and those things, it's still the attention was shifting to the things that we needed to get corrected. That to me, is really important," Mangini explained.
As the Jets continue to savor Thursday's victory, shifting the attention to improvement will garner a new meaning this week. After beating up on the likes of the 1-9 Kansas City Chiefs and the 2-8 St. Louis Rams in recent weeks, the Jets will prepare for their titanic matchup in Tennessee.
The Jets will battle the undefeated Tennessee Titans (10-0), in a matchup will may lay the groundwork for the top of the AFC standings come playoff time.
"They play complementary football. They're talented in all three phases, they're well-coached," Mangini said today of the Titans.
But while the Jets were once 1-2 this season and seemed snakebitten even with Brett Favre quarterbacking the offense, Mangini knows that his team is now one that carries the mentality he's been hoping for. Both the Titans and the Jets do not expect to lose.
"You always want your guys to have the mentality that they can't lose. I think that's a great spirit to have in any locker room," Mangini said. "It's much better than sitting there waiting for the other shoe to drop."
One point of emphasis come Sunday will be stopping the Titans' talented passing attack, which only ranked 27th in the league heading into play yesterday but thread the Jaguars' defense for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Led by 14-year veteran Kerry Collins, Mangini knows the Tennessee offense is a threat.
"He's been very effective at managing the game, very effective at managing the offense," Mangini said of Collins. "It's well-run, it's efficient."
After replacing the injured Vince Young in the second week of the season, Collins has thrown for eight touchdown passes in leading the Titans to nine consecutive victories.
But while Tennessee's offense has erupted in recent weeks, their defense has remained a force throughout the season. Leading into yesterday, the Titans had allowed the fewest points (117) and the second-fewest yards (2561) in the league. One reason for that statistic is defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Today Mangini was asked how Haynesworth compares to the Jets' immovable force, Kris Jenkins.
"He's got great size, he's got great short area quickness," Mangini said of Haynesworth. "He's got excellent explosiveness. He's a big man that can move and combines that size with great natural strength and power."
Feely or Nugent?
Jay Feely's perfect afternoon (4-for-4 FG, 5-for-5 PAT) in the Jets' 47-3 thumping of the Rams earned him Special Teams Player of the Week honors from Mangini and special teams coach Mike Westhoff. In Thursday's 34-31 overtime victory over the Patriots, Feely followed up his career day by nailing the game-winning 34-yard field goal. But with Mike Nugent recovered and ready to return from a strained thigh that sidelined him for the previous ten weeks, will Feely's clutch kicking earn him an extended stay on the Jets' roster? Mangini explained today that the Jets' coaching staff will "go through the week and take a look at" both Feely and Nugent and that they will make a "decision at the end of the week."
Since joining the Jets in the Week Two loss to the Patriots, Feely has connected on 18 of his 22 field goal attempts.
Rhodes' Clutch Call
After allowing 511 total yards and 31 points to the Patriots' offense, Jets safety Kerry Rhodes came up clutch prior to overtime in the Jets' 34-31 victory. Rhodes correctly called tails on the coin toss, giving the Jets the ball. Brett Favre then proceeded to lead the Jets' offense 64 yards on 14 plays, enabling Feely to send the Jets home happy with his 34-yard field goal and keep the ball out of quarterback Matt Cassel's hands. Today Mangini was asked about the decision to go with tails.
"I'm not sure who calls what. I know there's a group of guys that go out there, I'm not sure how they come to a consensus," Mangini said. "It worked out pretty well."
Groundwork of Success for Washington
While Favre carried the Jets' offense to scoring drives at the end of regulation and in overtime, Leon Washington's small stature loomed large. Washington began the memorable night with a seven-yard touchdown reception, in which he escaped would-be tacklers and burst into the endzone to give the Jets a 7-0 lead. In the second quarter, with the Jets up 10-6, Washington took a Stephen Gostowski kickoff and motored 92 yards for a touchdown. In all, Washington racked up 211 total yards (176 return yards, 18 rushing yards, 17 receiving yards)and two touchdowns in the key division victory.
Mangini explained that Washington's success in 2008 is a result of relentless hard work and preparation. While he did not single out any player as a mentor for Washington, Mangini did note that Curtis Martin was around the team during Washington's rookie season in 2006.
After injuring his groin in the Jets' 26-17 win over Buffalo on Nov. 2, linebacker David Harris missed his second consecutive game last Thursday. Mangini, who generally remains tight-lipped concerning injuries, explained that Harris, tight end Bubba Franks (hip) and safety Eric Smith (head) "are all making progress." Players are not expected to report back to team facilities until Wednesday.