Center Nick Mangold was motivated to shove aside the Titans' dominant defense (JI Photo).
Last week as Jay Feely's 43-yard field goal soared through the uprights in overtime to defeat the rival Patriots, the Jets sent a loud statement to their division opponents that the Patriots' AFC East dominance had struck a roadblock. After yesterday's 34-13 drubbing of the previously unbeaten Titans, the Jets sent another thunderous statement, which traveled further throughout the NFL landscape. For one afternoon, the Jets were no longer that snakebitten franchise that anxiously awaited the "other shoe to drop" and for glory to quickly dissipate into turmoil. These Jets anointed the message that their play will speak loudly come the season's final month.
"I think it was as exciting as any two game strech where you win both games," center Nick Mangold said. "It gives us a good platform as we get into the meat of the season to validate what we have been doing."
The Jets' resounding message was delivered directely from the outset yesterday, as quarterback Brett Favre led the offense on a crisp, nine-play, 76-yard drive that debilitated a forceful Titans defense and handed the Jets a 7-0 lead. The opening touchdown also allowed the Jets to quiet an electric LP Field crowd.
"It gives you a chance to gain some momentum, especially when you're playing on the road, to be able to come out and score right away," head coach Eric Mangini said. "[To] quiet the crowd a little bit as you move into the first part of the game is always positive."
However, just as the great teams do, the Jets did not take their foot off the pedal. They hung 34 points and 409 yards against the league's sixth-ranked defense. The first-place Jets came out "fired up" to continue their sudden dominance, Mangold said and were motivated to shove aside doubts that the Titans' defensive line was impenetrable.
"As a player in the NFL, you want to go against the best and we had that opportunity of going against them knowing that they are one of the best front four in the league right now," Mangold explained. "It's a great challenge and it gives you an opportunity to see where you're at."
Fullback Tony Richardson voiced today that he was "tired" of hearing about the Titans' front four heading into yesterday's matchup and his performance ultimately spoke for itself. Tennessee entered yesterday ranked tenth in the league in run defense (95.1 yards allowed/game) but the Jets' electric duo of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington threaded the defense for 178 rushing yards. The effective ground game complimented the Jets' future Hall of Fame quarterback, who delivered a near flawless performance by completing 25-of-32 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
For an offense that stumbled earlier this season and desperately searched for an identity after lackluster performances against the lowly Raiders (3-8) and Chiefs (1-10), yesterday's performance turned those dark Sundays into an afterthought. In the Jets' current five-game winning streak, the offense has posted 28, 26, 47, 34 and 34 points respectively. While the numbers speak loudly, Richardson knows they do not always have to.
"For us, if we're able to have one more point than our opponent than we went out and did our job," Richardson said. "If we're able to score more points, that's great, but the bottom line is that we're just trying to do whatever we can, the offense, defense and special teams, to ensure a victory."
However as the Jets' offense continues to motor, the debate begs, what is the unit's identity?
"I think identity, and all that kind of stuff, those are things that people want to write about and talk about," explained Richardson.
Through 11 weeks, perhaps the best association with the offense's identity is "winner."
The Jets have handed the city of New York a winner, just as the Giants have followed up last year's memorable Super Bowl run with a 10-1 record in 2008. Cornerback Darrelle Revis knows the excitement for football in New York is at a new level.
"The excitement is very high right now," Revis said. "Both teams are doing great. We are in the city of New York. Everything is going good for us. There is a lot of excitement and a lot of people are jumping on the Jets bandwagon," Revis explained with a laugh.
Rightfully so for the first-place Jets.
Favre Audibles to Success
After spending the previous 16 seasons with the Packers, Favre knew his initial days in the Jets' offense could hit some turbulance. But as the Jets now sit in first place in the AFC East (8-3) and Favre continues to play flawless football, learning the offensive system has become an afterthought. While Mangini would presumably have more confidence in his signal-caller calling audibles at the line of scrimmage now rather than in September, the Jets' head coach insists that the trust has been present all along. In fact, Favre displayed his smarts in his first practice as a Jet.
"The very first practice he was here, we had a run called. [Favre] pulled up, whipped it out to [Laveranues Coles] and it went for 30 [yards]. It really hasn't stopped," Mangini said.
The Roots of Confidence
Mangini can surely relate to the memorable slogan, "practice makes perfect." While wins over the rival Patriots and the previously unbeaten Titans have increased the confidence level in the Jets' locker room, Mangini pinpointed toward the team's improved practice habits as another source of confidence.
"What has gotten better and better as we've gone on is our practice tempo has gotten very consistent and our preparation has gotten very consistent," Mangini said. "Guys are playing different roles. They understand their roles. They embrace their roles."
A Letdown Against Denver?
This Sunday, the road for the Jets does not get any easier. The Jets will meet the Denver Broncos, who remain in first place in the AFC West, despite falling to the woeful Raiders 31-10 yesterday. The Jets' preparation will remain the same.
"It's not different for me. I don't think it will be different for those guys either," Mangini said. "There are five games left in the season. It's a five-game season. Every game becomes that much more important."
Elam Wasting No Time to Shine
Abram Elam doesn't carry Kerry Rhodes' resume in the Jets' secondary, but Elam has hit his stride in 2008. After playing in 13 games (eight starts) last season where he recorded 65 tackles, Elam has been a playmaker this season. In 11 games (five starts), he's recorded a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown and has forced two key fumbles. In yesterday's 34-13 victory over the Titans, the third-year safety led the Jets in tackles (nine) and also stripped the football away from running back Chris Johnson.
Revis: Oakland Loss "Falls on Us"
After falling to the woeful Raiders 16-13 on Oct. 19, the Jets have won five consecutive games. While the current streak suggests the Jets made various adjustments, Revis insists that the only adjustment came on the players themselves.
"We pointed the finger at everybody on the team. It all falls on us," Revis said. "We have to go out there and complete a whole game. We can't go out there and have mental errors and mistakes. We have to have a complete game and be consistent in our play on the field."
Today, Mangini praised Elam.
"He's a good person. He works the same way since the day he arrived here," Mangini said. "When he gets these opportunities, he's taken advantage of them, which is what you really look for."
Mangini Dreaming Jets-Giants?
As the Giants (six-game winning streak) and Jets (five-game winning streak) head into Week 13 as the NFL's two hottest teams, an all-New York Super Bowl has become more than just a pipe dream. While the dream matchup remains a possiblity, Mangini's focus is on Sunday's opponent, the Denver Broncos.
"I guess I look at it totally different. I look at it as a five-game season and the next team. I know that's not flashy or exciting or any of those things," Mangini said. "I'm happy for the Giants. I haven't gotten to see very many of their games, but it's really Jets all the time."
Safety Eric Smith missed his fifth consective game yesterday. Smith suffered a concussion during the Jets' victory over the Cardinals on Sept. 28 and returned for matchups with the Raiders (Oct. 19) and Chiefs (Oct. 26) before suffering his second concussion in just one month. Despite the setback, Mangini is confident that the team didn't bring back Smith too soon.
"We've gone through all steps we had in place and we continue to work through those steps. Eric's making progress," Mangini said.
Linebacker David Harris (groin) missed his fourth consecutive game yesterday. Kicker Mike Nugent (right thigh) and tight end Bubba Franks (hip) were listed as inactive yesterday. He did not update each player's status.