Late charge not enough, Titans fall to Jets
NASHVILLE -- Just as the Tennessee Titans came alive midway through the second half, the New York Jets added a late touchdown to secure a 23-16 win in the season and home opener at LP Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Titans had a chance to tie the game with less than a minute left but failed to convert on fourth-and-two from the Jet 8-yard line.
"You can say we had shots at the end zone to tie it up, but we should have never put ourselves in that situation," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "Too many plays were left on that field today."
All the pre-game buzz was who would be the Titans' starting quarterback.
Recently-signed Kerry Collins got the nod over Billy Volek and rookie Vince Young.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Jets scored first on a nine-play drive covering 76 yards when Kevan Barlow ran a yard for the touchdown at the 13:17 mark of the second quarter.
The drive was aided by a personal foul penalty when Titan safety Lamont Thompson was flagged for roughing the quarterback.
Thompson also had an apparent interception on the drive but it was called back after Peter Sirmon was called for pass interference.
On the Titans' fourth possession, at 8:55 in the second quarter, Fisher put Young into the game.
Young and the offense quickly moved the ball as he completed three straight passes. On his fourth, he was intercepted by former Tennessee cornerback André Dyson on the Jet 6.
The Titan defense did halt New York deep in Tennessee territory when Thompson recovered a fumble. But Collins returned and was picked off by Dyson, his second of the half.
Pennington made it hurt, connecting with Jerricho Cotchery on an 8-yard TD pass with 17 seconds left in the half. Mike Nugent missed the point after as the Jets led 13-0 at the intermission.
The Tennessee defense simply didn't have a answer to Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, a Tennessee native.
Pennington had an outstanding first half, connecting on 16 of 22 passes for 189 yards.
The Titans had 86 yards passing and 30 yards rushing in the first half.
Collins finished the first half with a 22.0 pass rating, going 5 of 13 for 62 yards.
On the first play of the second half, Collins threw another interception.
Actually, he couldn't be blamed for that one as the ball bounced off wide-open tight end Ben Troupe into the hands of Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.
Give Tennessee's defense credit for holding New York to a 18-yard field goal and the 16-0 lead.
New York had a chance to put the game away but failed to score. To make matters worse, Nugent missed field goals of 34 and 30 yards.
Just when you thought the Titans were down and out, they scored on a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard Travis Henry run. He also rushed for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 16-8.
The Titan defense got the ball right back as backup rookie cornerback Cortland Finnegan crushed Pennington at the New York 1, jarring the ball loose and defensive tackle Randy Starks emerged from the pile with pigskin in hand.
One play later, Henry raced around right end to the end zone. Collins threw to Drew Bennett for the two-point conversion to even the score at 16-16 with 5:58 left to play.
Pennington and the Jets offense followed with a nice 57-yard, seven-play drive, highlighted by a critical 38-yard pass reception to Laveranues Coles.
Tight end Chris Baker hauled in a 12-yard TD pass from Pennington with 2:10 left on the clock. Nugent's kick made the score 23-16.
Pennington finished the game clicking on 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards with a pair of TDs and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 123.2.
"Chad did a good job of executing the no huddle offense," first-year Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "I think the mechanics were excellent, the tempo was excellent and I'm proud that he was poised."
After struggling in the first half, Collins' numbers were better in the second, passing for 181 of his 223 yards after the intermission.
"I think we just got more into a rhythm as the game went on," Collins said. "We started to get into some no-huddle stuff and that helped."
Both teams struggled on the ground. New York rushed for 91 yards compared to Tennessee's 69.
Linebacker Keith Bullock led the Titan defense with 14 tackles (10 solo, four assists).
The Titans play at San Diego next week.