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Jets Lose Game, Playoff Hopes

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Mark Sanchez (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Mark Sanchez (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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By TERESA M. WALKER,  AP Sports Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The New York Jets’ playoff hopes are gone, lost in a wave of turnovers by struggling Mark Sanchez.

Chris Johnson went 94 yards for the longest touchdown run in the NFL since 2006, and the Tennessee Titans beat the Jets 14-10 on Monday night to eliminate New York from postseason contention.

“Obviously, it’s a devastating loss, out of the playoffs, and it hurts beyond belief,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “I think the thing that really hurts the most is we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves.”

Jake Locker’s first touchdown run of the season put Tennessee ahead to stay late in the third quarter, and the Titans intercepted four passes by Sanchez to snap a three-game skid.

“The bottom line is we hung in there, something we haven’t been
able to do the last two, three weeks of hold onto a lead or find a
way to win in the fourth quarter, and this time we did,” Titans
coach Mike Munchak said. “It’s good to win again. It’s been a
while.”

After bumbling around all night, the Jets somehow still had a
chance to win when they took over at the Tennessee 25 with 47
seconds left following a 19-yard punt by Brett Kern. But Sanchez
fumbled a low shotgun snap, running back Bilal Powell inadvertently
kicked the ball away and the Titans recovered to seal it.

“I saw him bobbling the snap,” Titans rookie linebacker Zach
Brown said. “Then it just came out, and I just fell on it. I was
thinking sack because it was play-action. I was thinking I’m going
to get me a sack, but he fumbled the snap.”

It was a fitting end to an ugly game that left Ryan cursing to
himself as he walked off the field. Sanchez finished with five
turnovers– one on each of his team’s final three possessions. He
has 24 this season and 50 total in the past two seasons combined.

“It doesn’t feel good hurting your team like that,” Sanchez
said. “It’s not a winning formula. It never feels good.”

Ryan wasn’t ready to say who his quarterback will be Sunday when
the Jets host San Diego.

“I’ve just got to prepare as the starter and see what
happens,” Sanchez said.

Ryan also refused to say if he regretted not activating Greg
McElroy, who came on in relief when Sanchez was benched Dec. 2 and
led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona. McElroy was inactive, with
the Jets keeping six receivers on a banged-up unit.

“I just regret not winning this game,” Ryan said. “I think
that’s the big thing.”

The Jets (6-8) needed to win their final three games and get
help elsewhere to earn a playoff spot. Instead, the Titans sacked
Sanchez three times and got a fourth on Tim Tebow. Jason McCourty
and Michael Griffin each had two interceptions, keeping the Jets
out of the playoffs for a second straight season after reaching
consecutive AFC title games.

Johnson, with the names of the victims of Friday’s shootings in
Connecticut written on his cleats, ran a franchise-record 94 yards
for a TD in the second quarter. Johnson said he followed a block by
center Kyle DeVan, the Titans’ latest player at the position after
replacement Kevin Matthews sprained his right ankle.

“Kind of heartbroken, so just something to try to give back and
show tribute to those families knowing how much they hurt and a
situation where on Monday Night Football everybody around the world
is watching,” Johnson said, explaining why he wrote the victims’
names on his cleats.

Locker’s 13-yard quarterback keeper around left end put the
Titans (5-9) ahead 14-10 with 20 seconds left in the third.

The Jets had plenty of time and opportunity in the fourth to
take the lead, but Sanchez kept giving the ball away.

Griffin intercepted Sanchez with 7:09 left on a pass intended
for Braylon Edwards. On the next drive, the Jets got help from a
personal foul when Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon hit Sanchez
in the head with his helmet on third-and-4. A couple of plays
later, Sanchez threw into triple coverage for Jeff Cumberland, and
Griffin picked off Sanchez again with 1:51 left at the Titans 2.

Even with the ugly night, the Jets’ defense gave New York one
final chance after forcing Tennessee to punt.

Kern had a 19-yarder under pressure, giving New York the ball at
the Tennessee 25. But Sanchez mishandled a low snap from center

Nick Mangold, and Brown recovered to finally clinch Tennessee’s
win.

Sanchez was 13 of 28 for 131 yards and a touchdown. He finished
with his most interceptions in a game since 2009.

The Jets even turned to Tebow for a complete series in the
second quarter. They picked up two first downs and reached their
own 44, but the drive stalled from there after a sack, a
delay-of-game penalty and an incompletion.

Sanchez returned on the Jets’ next series and promptly threw his
first interception to McCourty.

The Jets kept Tennessee from scoring a single point off all the
turnovers. But the damage already was done.
Sanchez put the Jets ahead 10-7 with a 17-yard TD pass to
Cumberland with 3:19 left in the third quarter.

The Titans led 7-3 at halftime after Johnson’s long scamper in
the second quarter. His touchdown run was the longest by any NFL
player since Minnesota’s Chester Taylor had a 95-yard TD in a 31-13
victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 22, 2006.

After Robert Malone’s 53-yard punt backed the Titans up to their
own 5-yard line, Johnson rushed for 1 yard on first down. On the
next play, he found a seam up the middle and appeared untouched on
his way to the end zone.

It marked Johnson’s sixth career touchdown run of at least 80
yards, giving him twice as many as anyone else in NFL history.

Barry Sanders, Ahman Green, Hugh McElhenny and O.J. Simpson each
had three touchdown runs of at least 80 yards.

Johnson was otherwise held in check, finishing with 122 yards on
21 carries for his 32nd career 100-yard game.

The Jets grabbed a 3-0 lead when Nick Folk’s 22-yard field goal
capped their first possession of the night. New York appeared to
reach the end zone when Cumberland caught a 4-yard pass from
Sanchez on third-and-goal, but the original ruling of a touchdown
was overturned after replays showed the ball hit the ground.

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for victims of the
shootings Friday in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults
were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed
his mother in her home before committing suicide.

Johnson had the names of all the victims written on the two
shoes he wore for the game. He also had the words “RIP SHES” and
a cross written on each shoe. The Jets had an “SHES” decal on
their helmets.

Notes: The Titans’ previous record for the longest run in
franchise history was 91 yards, a mark shared by Johnson and Sid
Blanks. Johnson had a 91-yard run against the Houston Texans in
2009. Blanks also did it against the Jets on Dec. 13, 1964. … The
Jets had won the last two and four of the past five meetings
between the teams.
___
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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