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Notebook: Titans Feast on Five Jets Turnovers

Posted Dec 18, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans expected the Jets to pound the football, but not leave it on the ground with the game on the line.

Titans rookie Zach Brown handled the surprise, however, by recovering a fumbled snap by Jets QB Mark Sanchez that was inadvertently kicked by RB Bilal Powell as Sanchez tried to recover the low snap in the shotgun formation. Brown missed the opportunity to recover a fumble earlier in the game, but came through with 43 seconds remaining to secure Tennessee’s 14-10 victory at LP Field on Monday Night Football.

“I was like, ‘Oh, the ball, yes!,’ ” Brown said. “Because the first time they fumbled it, I was there, but I didn’t recover it. But this time it was ‘Yes, the ball, and I’m getting it.’ And once I fell on it and it popped out again, and (Jurrell) Casey covered me up and I recovered it, and I was then like ‘Hey, we won the game.’ ”

Brown’s recovery was the fifth turnover by Sanchez, who also threw four interceptions (two to Jason McCourty and two to Michael Griffin). The Titans’ defense forced a season-high five turnovers, and the offense did not commit a turnover.

“It was huge,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Anytime you can get five turnovers in a game, like you said it’s a great thing. On the other side of it, we didn’t have turnovers. So I think that pretty much usually means you are going to win the football game.”

Brown added seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Akeem Ayers and Derrick Morgan also recorded sacks for Tennessee (5-9), which finished with six tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and six passes defensed.

Munchak said he was happy with the way the progress the defense has continued to make in the past several weeks.

“I think the young linebackers are getting a feel for how to add with pressure and take advantage of the protection schemes, I think we’re getting better understanding that,” Munchak said. “Zach Brown is getting more and more comfortable the more he plays, Akeem (Ayers), I mean, you’ve got some guys that you’re going to hear about for a long time around here that have a chance to make a lot of football plays for this team. Yeah it was fun to watch, us getting after him, getting after the quarterback, making hard for him, forcing some of those turnovers that you saw in the secondary.”

The defense pestered Sanchez throughout the game, limiting him to 13-for-28 passing for 131 yards and one touchdown against the four interceptions for a passer rating of 32.6. Sanchez shared reps with Tim Tebow, who was 0-for-1 passing with one sack and three carries for 15 yards.

McCourty recorded the first two picks for his first career two interception game. He managed to get both feet in bounds near the sideline on the first, and plucked a deep ball at the Tennessee 26-yard line that he returned 28 yards early in the third quarter.

“Man, we knew coming into the game, they were going to pound the ball,” McCourty said. “And we knew when the put the ball in the air we were going to have the opportunities to make plays. We just felt like that for in the past however-many weeks, as a defense we needed to step up and give our offense more of a chance to help us put points on the board. And we were able to do that tonight.” 

Griffin nabbed his first interception at the Tennessee 24 and returned it 40 yards, but a holding penalty moved the return back to midfield with 7:09 remaining in the game. Griffin recorded his second at the Tennessee 2, when Sanchez tried to hit TE Jeff Cumberland in triple coverage with 1:51 left. The Jets forced a punt by the Titans and got the ball back at their own 25 with 47 seconds remaining but suffered the fumble by Sanchez.   

The interceptions were the third and fourth of the season for McCourty, and second and third of the year for Griffin, who now has 20 career interceptions.

TITANS QUICKLY ANSWER JETS SCORE: The Titans led 7-3 at halftime on a historic 94-yard TD run by Chris Johnson, but New York took a 10-7 lead with 3:19 left in the third quarter.

The Jets benefitted from starting their third possession of the second half at the Tennessee 35, and converted a four-play drive with a 20-yard run by Joe McKnight and a 17-yard TD from Sanchez to Cumberland on third-and-12.

Tennessee, however, answered quickly with a seven-play, 64-yard drive in 2 minutes, 59 seconds to take the lead for good with 20 seconds left in the period.

Titans QB Jake Locker was 3-for-4 for 46 yards on the drive and capped it with a 13-yard touchdown run, scoring his first rushing TD of the season with blocks from Kyle DeVan, Craig Stevens, Kendall Wright, Michael Preston, Chris Johnson and Michael Roos.

“I thought the drive was crisp, with a lot of needed tempo,” Locker said. “There weren’t any mental mistakes and we executed really well. When you do those things, a drive like that, is what you are capable of doing. We need to find ways to do that more throughout a game.”

Locker finished 13-for-22 passing for 149 yards. He took four sacks, but managed a 79.5 passer rating and added 43 yards on seven carries.

INJURIES: DeVan relieved Kevin Matthews, who suffered a high ankle sprain, Munchak said. Kendall Wright suffered a rib injury when he awkwardly landed after trying to snag a deep pass from Locker, and Ryan Mouton suffered a hamstring.

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