Brett Favre began the celebration of his 501st career touchdown pass in signature fashion, giddily running around in a wide circle like an airplane waiting to land.
Shortly thereafter, the Tennessee Titans officially crashed back to earth.
A 34-13 whipping of what was the NFL's only unbeaten team Sunday shows how high the New York Jets are soaring. And guiding this aircraft is a 39-year-old pilot growing increasingly comfortable in a new cockpit.
Roughly 3 1/2 months since his arrival from Green Bay, Favre's command of New York's offense was on display in a two-touchdown, 224-yard road outing. He shredded the league's best scoring defense with a controlled short passing game, completing 25-of-32 throws to seven different targets. Even when committing two first-half turnovers, Favre was never reckless.
Favre is no longer forcing passes like earlier this year — or, for that matter, through much of his 16 seasons with the Packers. Yet he still hasn't lost the improvisational skills that have highlighted a Hall of Fame career.
Favre's aforementioned two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Laveranues Coles is a prime example. Favre initially took a three-step drop while looking left for Dustin Keller, only to find his rookie tight end covered for one of the few times Sunday by Tennessee's injury-wracked secondary. No worry. Favre was given enough protection by his offensive line to find another option, which in this case was Coles streaking across the back of the end zone.
Favre said he threw the pass believing Coles would be the only one who could catch it. But that decision also could have badly backfired if the football wasn't threaded into what was admittedly a "tight fit."
Favre joked that such risk-taking is what he calls the Mike Holmgren syndrome, referring to when his former Packers head coach would respond to such plays by saying, "Oh no, no, no, no ... Good!"
"It was good today," a smiling Favre said.
Conversely, the Titans (10-1) were just plain bad.
Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch told FOXSports.com two weeks ago that his team would eventually "lose a game." But he couldn't have envisioned it happening in such lopsided fashion with New York controlling the clock for 40:30.
It wasn't just the inability to stop Favre or Jets running backs Washington (82 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Thomas Jones (96) that was so disturbing. Nor was it solely an inadequate offensive effort that saw Tennessee's run-heavy attack produce just 45 yards.
More so, it was the Titans beating themselves with mistakes and penalties. There were four dropped Kerry Collins passes on the first four series alone. Two Craig Hentrich punts that could have pinned New York deep inside its own territory early in the second quarter went for touchbacks. Add 130 penalty yards on seven infractions and the Titans were lucky to remain within striking distance until Washington's second fourth-quarter touchdown run with 2:09 remaining.
"You don't play like we played and win," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
After a 3-3 start, the Jets are now on a five-game winning streak that includes consecutive road victories over the Titans and New England (7-4). While still trailing Tennessee by two games in the race for the conference's top playoff spot, Jets players and coaches are now being asked whether they are the team to beat in the AFC.
Favre wouldn't go that far—yet.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we established ourselves as the best team in football," 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. It's hard to win on the road. It's hard to win at a place that's 10-0. It's hard to win five in a row. We've found a way to do it."
Just like with Favre buying into a different offensive system than what was used in Green Bay, nose tackle Kris Jenkins said New York's surge stems from players setting aside their own egos in the quest for team success.
"We started to realize how seriously we wanted to win," Jenkins said. "We sat down in the locker room and said, 'We've got to get it together.' A lot of guys could have fought it and done their own thing, but everybody bought into each other."
Favre, too, senses the Jets have a chance to become a special team like his 1996 and 1997 Packers teams that reached Super Bowls.
"When we stepped on the field, we were 14 points ahead before kickoff from a mental standpoint," Favre said. "Nobody wanted to play us. That more than anything is what got us to the Super Bowl. Once you get that edge, you're well on your way.
"I don't want to say we've got that, but I'm starting to sense guys believing in what we're trying to do."
That, too, is reason for Favre to celebrate.
This article originally published on FOXSports.com.
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