NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The New York Jets announced themselves as a legitimate contender for the AFC East crown with their victory over the New England Patriots on Nov. 13.
Ten days later, they made an even bigger statement.
Dominating the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans from start to finish, the Jets declared themselves an elite team in the conference with yesterday's 34-13 victory in front of a mostly somber crowd at LP Field. The Titans (10-1) hadn't lost a regular-season game since Dec. 16, 2007, in becoming the 11th team since 1970 to win its first 10 games.
But yesterday was about the Jets, 8-3 for the first time since 2004, and their most complete effort of the season in what was their fifth straight victory since an overtime loss in Oakland that looks more inexplicable by the week.
"We want to be taken seriously," nose tackle Kris Jenkins (Maryland) said. "We feel like we're a good team and that we can compete. That's all we're looking for. Every game to us is a big game."
"I'm not going to sit here and say that we've established ourselves as the best team in football," Brett Favre said. "All it says is that I think we beat the best team in football today, definitely, if you go by record and the way they've played. It's hard to win, period, in this league and hard to win on the road. It's hard to win at a place that's 10-0; it's hard to win at Foxborough. We found a way to do it."
But while the Jets built a 24-6 first-half lead on the Patriots only to be taken into overtime, yesterday never reached that level of drama.
After the defense forced the Titans into a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Jets moved easily downfield, scoring on their first drive for the sixth straight game. Favre capped the nine-play, 76-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Jones, who caught the screen pass at the 8-yard line and made his way into the end zone untouched behind space-clearing blocks from center Nick Mangold, left guard Alan Faneca and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
"That first drive was really a tone-setter," Favre said.
In every way, especially considering the Titans came into the game having given up a league-low 23 first-quarter points and led the league in scoring defense (13.1 ppg).
The Jets' game plan to attack that defense called for mostly short passes and Favre executed it well, finishing 25-for-32 for 224 yards with two TDs and one INT. The Jets outgained the Titans 409-281 in total yards, including 192-45 on the ground.
Tennessee came in with a bruising reputation on both sides of the ball, ranking seventh in rushing (132.7 ypg) and 10th against the run (95.1), but were beaten up both ways by the Jets, whose front seven was stellar.
The defense twice shut down the Titans after first-half turnovers, yielding zero points and allowing the Jets to take a 10-3 lead into the half.
"It was incredibly important," coach Eric Mangini said. "To come out and hold them to no points after a sudden change [turnovers], that's key."
But the even bigger key was an offensive line that played its best game of the season. The quintet starred most of the afternoon - Favre was sacked only twice - and was the primary reason the Jets owned a staggering advantage in time of possession, 40:30-19:30.
"Our offensive line is one of the best in the league," said Jones, who rushed 27 times for 96 yards, just missing a third straight 100-yard game.