Jets buck recent trends

All week long Herman Edwards talked about the importance of staying competitive early on against the explosive Tennessee Titans. <p>

The Jets were determined not to have to come from behind, as they did in their previous four contests. And they achieved their goal.

For the first time in over a month, Chad Pennington and company did not have to wage or attempt a fourth quarter comeback, as they defeated the Titans (9-3), 24-17, at the Meadowlands, to push their season mark to 5-7, and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

"Our mindset was to attack and not play on our heels," said Edwards after the game. "We did not want to give these guys a big lead. They have scored 174 points in the first half of football games. We knew if we played in a game like that, we had no chance. We did not want to get those guys ahead of us. I thought coming into halftime when it was 10-7, we had an excellent chance to win."

The Jets played one of their best defensive games of the season, especially in the first half. The much-maligned unit allowed only 43 yards rushing to Eddie George and company in the games first two quarters, and shut down Steve McNair and the passing attack as well.

McNair finished the first half with a quarterback rating of just 56.9, while passing for only 92 yards.

"It was real important to hold these guys early," said rookie linebacker Victor Hobson. "They have been able to jump out to big leads early all year, once that happens, they put teams in bad situations and get the offense out of their game plans. And they are in the drivers seat.

"We did not want to let that happen today. We wanted to be in control from the opening kickoff."

"We wanted to put ourselves in a position where we could score points early," said offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie. "We did not want to come from behind and do that again. It was nice this time to hold on to a lead.

"We feel good because we went out tonight and things went in our favor. Hats off to that team they played some good football, they are a good team. This day it worked out for us."

The win in primetime is encouraging to McKenzie, and now he feels anything is possible. Even a late season run.

"We don't want eight losses," said McKenzie. "We want to have a winning record. That is why we play this game to go to the playoffs. Anything can happen, you never know."

Tennessee started off the scoring on their first possession on a perfectly thrown strike from Steve McNair to Justin McCareins, for 59 yards, giving Tennessee the early 7-0 cushion.

The Jets did not take long to answer back, scoring on a six-yard Curtis Martin touchdown run, his first of the season. The run tied the score at 7, with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter.

"The guys were kidding me when I got back to the sidelines because I have not scored a touchdown in so long," said Martin. "It was like a new world for me usually it is something I am used to, but with the situations this year I have not had that opportunity."

The drive went 12 plays for 67 yards in 6:28.

Gang Green was aided on their opening touchdown drive by an overruled interception call; Samari Rolle picked off a Pennington pass in the corner of the end zone, which was intended for Santana Moss.

However, officials overturned the play after Edwards issued a challenged, giving possession back to Pennington and the Jets, which enabled the score to be tied.

However, Rolle got redemption later in the first half when he intercepted Pennington on a pass route intended for Moss.

The Titans were unable to score any points off the turnover, as Craig Hentrich missed a 51-yard field goal.

Pennington and the Jet offense took over after the missed field goal at their own 42, and went to work from there.

The offense was able to get the ball inside the Titans' 10-yard line, however, they had to settle for a Doug Brien 27-yard field goal to make the score 10-7. That was the score at the half.

After the Jets failed to get anything going on their opening possession of the second half, the Titans offense went to work with an 11-play, 56-yard drive, capped by a Gary Anderson 35-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.

However, the Titans defense was about to experience perfection at the quarterback position.

Pennington quickly connected with Kevin Swayne on a 27-yard strike, making the score 17-10, on the Jets very next offensive series.

The reception was Swayne's first catch of the season, and the first touchdown catch of his career.

On this drive, in the third quarter, and for the second half, Pennington was perfect, going eight for eight for 134 yards, and two touchdowns, as he compiled a quarterback rating of 158.3 in the games final two quarters.

The fourth year quarterback from Marshall finished the game 18 of 23 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 101.3. He completed an impressive 78.3 percent of his passes.

After holding the Titans on their next offensive series, Pennington once again led the Jets on another touchdown drive.

This drive culminated with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Conway in the corner of the end zone, extending the lead to 24-10 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the contest.

Conway, who has been hounded all year for a lack of production, took advantage of the national stage, and had his best game of the 2003 season, catching five passes, for 78 yards and a touchdown.

McNair and the Titans did fight back scoring once more on a seven-play 52-yard scoring drive when the quarterback found Derrick Mason in the end zone for an eight- yard touchdown, making it 24-17.

But that was as close as they came.

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