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Jets-Titans: New York Aims To Remain Undefeated against Starved Tennessee

Angel Navedo@NamedAngelSenior Writer ISeptember 24, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets runs from the field against the New England Patriots at Giants Stadium on September 20, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The desperate Tennessee Titans will enter the Meadowlands on Sunday in pursuit of their first win when they face the undefeated New York Jets and their top-ranked defense.

How’s that for an opening sentence you never expected to read?

The territory is fairly familiar for the Jets when recalling recent history.

In November 2008, the Jets followed up an overtime win at New England with a 34-13 thrashing of the undefeated Titans at LP Field. New York held the ball for 40 minutes in their last hurrah before slipping into a 9-7 abyss.

But as far as the 2009 season is concerned, last November is ancient history. They’ve been vocal, hostile, and efficient at the same time—a far-cry from the Jets of yesteryear.

Jets coach Rex Ryan spent the bulk of the offseason placing himself in a “put up or shut up” position and his team responded in strong fashion. Displaying defensive dominance over two explosive offenses—the Houston Texans and Patriots—the Jets have quickly become an early-season darling.

Can the Mad Scientist Concoct a Formula for Chris Johnson?

With exotic yet volatile blitz packages the Jets have suffocated quarterbacks and stonewalled running backs on their way to the top of the AFC East.

Third-year cornerback Darrelle Revis bottled up two Pro Bowl receivers, allowing Houston’s Andre Johnson and New England’s Randy Moss a meager four catches apiece. Neither receiver finished his day with more than 35 yards.

But as impressive as the Jets defense has been in not allowing a touchdown, Sunday's contest places them in the unfortunate position of containing a running back that scored three of them in one game from over 50 yards, an NFL record.

Titans running back Chris Johnson, the AFC’s leading rusher, scored on a 91-yard dash and two receptions of 57 and 69 yards to cement his place in league history last week.

The last time Ryan faced Johnson, the fastest man in the NFL was a nightmare for Ryan's blitz-happy schemes in Baltimore. Johnson's speed was the counter-punch to an aggressive Ravens defense in the divisional round of last year's playoffs.

Johnson nearly ousted the Ravens on his own, performing as a perpetual one-man army in the first half until an untimely injury sidelined him. In two quarters of play Johnson gashed Ryan's former defense for 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries with a 28-yard reception before his ankle kept him from returning.

No one should expect the Jets to deviate from the aggressive, attack-style approach that’s predicated their success thus far, but with enough patience, Johnson can be the player who exploits New York's tenacity.

Unless, of course, Ryan's Jets take him out like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis did last January.

In Sanchez They Can Trust

Does it need to be written? Really? You sure? Okay.

Mark Sanchez is only a rookie by definition. The criticisms of his inexperience aren’t all that relevant anymore. The Jets franchise quarterback is a fast learner who makes quick (and smart) decisions and doesn’t let anything rattle him.

There.

Perhaps all of this confidence is a result of the euphoric, honeymoon phase at the start of every new relationship.

The belief here is not that Sanchez is flawless and incapable of error; it’s that he’s every bit as talented as advertised—with even more room to grow.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said he wouldn’t scale back the game plan to benefit the rookie. But the hesitation was evident early against the Patriots when he afforded Sanchez with an unnecessary learning curve.

The defense's endurance was tested before Schottenheimer finally unhooked the handcuffs.

Whatever happened during halftime of that New England game—if Sanchez flashed his pearly whites and charmed Schottenheimer into letting him throw, or if Ryan called Schottenheimer to leave a fired-up message—must be built upon in the first quarter against Tennessee.

The Titans are susceptible to the pass, allowing an average of 339 yards per game through the first two weeks of action. That’s not to suggest Sanchez will easily pick them apart; it only means he might not face too much resistance if he tries.

Keep the 12th Man on the Roster

So the Titans aren’t in the AFC East, and coach Jeff Fisher is a much more likeable guy than the Hooded One in New England. Does that make New York’s bid for a 3-0 start any less significant?

Absolutely not.

Rex Ryan awarded the fans with last week’s game ball after everyone in attendance made the stadium as unfriendly for the Pats as possible. A repeat performance is in order.

The excessive crowd noise can be credited with forcing four uncharacteristic Delay of Game penalties on the Patriots, including two consecutive flags early in the second half, forcing a third-and-19 situation after the Jets went up 13-9.

Tennessee can't be left off the hook simply because they’re not a division rival.

On a Sidenote

Don't be alarmed when New York is introduced as the Titans on Sunday.

Celebrating 50 years since the inception of the AFL, the Jets will honor their history as the Titans of New York while Tennessee represents theirs as the Houston Oilers in one of 16 AFL Legacy games.

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