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Jets’ Ryan won’t apologize for victory

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Head coach Rex Ryan had a two-word message for the New York Jets fans who were mad that Monday was a “Victory Monday.” He doubled it to four, just to avoid upsetting the NFL and/or the FCC.

“Tough you-know-what,” Ryan said following the Jets’ eventful 16-11 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Jets and Titans entered Sunday as two of the five 2-11 teams vying for the worst record in the NFL. By coming back to beat the Titans in the fourth quarter and narrowly avoiding the most “Same ol’ Jets” loss in history — more on that in a moment — the Jets all but ensured Ryan’s expected replacement would not get to coach Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner who is expected to declare for the draft following the season and go first overall in May.

All four of the other 2-11 teams lost on Sunday, which means the Jets now have a .002 percent chance — not 2 percent, but two-tenths of a percent — of “earning” the No. 1 draft pick. With a loss on Sunday, the Jets would have moved up to second in the draft order. That’s where the Titans are now, and their 31.4 percent chance of drafting first puts them in a virtual dead heat with the Jacksonville Jaguars (31.6 percent).

Fresh off what might have been his final win with the Jets, Ryan exhibited flashes of his old, no-filter style in hammering those who wanted the Jets to lose out and “Suck for the Duck” in hopes of landing the franchise quarterback they have lacked since Joe Namath’s heyday.

“You know what?” Ryan said. “A Jets fan wants to win. Doesn’t matter what pick you get or whatever.”

Ryan paused.

“If it’s Peyton Manning out there, I can understand it,” Ryan said. “But I don’t think Peyton Manning’s out there.”

Ouch. But with almost zero hope of returning next season — or of having to mend fences with Mariota if he does — Ryan could afford to speak his mind and revel in the moment, as he did when he acknowledged feeling a bit selfish in enjoying the victory.

“I wanted (the win) as much for our players — more so for our players — than I did for myself,” Ryan said.

Then, in his next breath.

“That’s a lie, isn’t it?” Ryan said, “I wanted it for myself first.”

He almost didn’t get it in what would have been the most bizarre fashion imaginable. The Titans nearly pulled off the “Music City Miracle II” as time expired, but a lateral-filled play that began at the Tennessee 42-yard-line with one second left ended when tight end Delanie Walker, who briefly appeared to have nothing but open space ahead of him, was pushed out of bounds by safety Dawan Landry at the Jets’ 9-yard line.

“I don’t know if I could have handled that one,” Ryan said Monday.

Especially since he knows he wouldn’t have been around to benefit from it.

REPORT CARD VS. TITANS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C — Nine months from now, this might be looked back on as the day in which Geno Smith bought himself another year as the Jets’ starting quarterback. Smith (16-for-28, 179 yards, one touchdown) all but knocked the Jets out of the Marcus Mariota Derby by overseeing the game-winning 11-play, 76-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Sure, Smith only threw two passes on the drive and sure, it was aided by three Titans penalties — including an unsportsmanlike flag following an incompletion on 3rd-and-15 from the Jets’ 19-yard-line, as well as a pass interference on 3rd-and-goal that earned the Jets a new set of downs inside the Titans’ 10-yard-line — but let’s not be picky. It was far from a perfect game by Smith, who took a safety when he threw the ball into the ground while being sacked in the end zone. But for the second straight game, he didn’t turn the ball over. It’s only the second time he’s gone consecutive games without committing a turnover. Smith was also hurt by a pair of third-quarter mistakes by WR Eric Decker, who stepped out of bounds on what would have been an 81-yard touchdown catch. Decker also dropped an easy catch that would have given the Jets a first down in Titans territory. Decker (seven catches for 100 yards) still had his best day as a member of the Jets. The only other players with multiple catches were backup TE Jeff Cumberland (two catches for 22 yards) and third-string RB Bilal Powell (two catches for 10 yards). FB John Conner had the lone touchdown catch, just as everyone expected.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The Jets didn’t do much at all against a porous Titans rush defense until their game-winning drive, when Smith and RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory combined for 55 yards rushing — almost half the Jets’ 114 rushing yards for the afternoon. Johnson had the big run, a 37-yarder via a direct snap from backup center Dalton Freeman that gave the Jets a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Ivory then had three one-yard rushes, the last of which he took into the end zone. The long rush by Johnson (10 rushes for 55 yards) spared him the embarrassment of being completely shut down as his new team lost to his old one. Ivory (12 rushes for 25 yards) posted his second-lowest yards per carry figure of the season.

–PASS DEFENSE: C — The Jets didn’t allow a passing touchdown for just the second time this season, though career backup Whitehurst (10-for-24, 203 yards) managed to average a whopping 20 yards per completion in relief of starter Jake Locker, whose season likely ended via a hit by DE Quinton Coples for the second straight season. Whitehurst’s numbers were inflated by the near-Music City Miracle II, but he had 158 yards passing on just nine completions prior to that as he continually found WR Nate Washington (six catches for 102 yards) and TE Delanie Walker (four catches for 93 yards) wide open for big gainers. Walker had consecutive catches of 18 yards and 33 yards to put the Titans on the edge of the red zone late in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, the Jets won’t get away with that against the Patriots this week. LB IK Enemkpali had a very impressive game with a pass deflection that he nearly turned into an interception, as well as a sack that was negated by a downfield holding call.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Titans did a bit better than expected against the Jets’ stout run defense yet still didn’t mount much of a threat with 89 yards on 28 rushes. Ex-Jet RB Shonn Greene (16 carries for 50 yards) had as many carries and more yards Sunday than he did in the Titans’ previous six games combined (30 yards), but the longest runs of the day were produced by change-of-pace RB Dexter McCluster (11 yards) and backup QB Charlie Whitehurst (10 yards). The Jets are allowing 3.5 yards per carry, the third-lowest figure in the league.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Nick Folk, kicking with a bum hip, missed a 53-yard field goal — and argued with assistant special teams coach Louis Aguiar afterward over a miscommunication the two had on Folk’s range — and barely made a 51-yarder. Punter Ryan Quigley handled kickoff duties in place of Folk and booted two touchbacks. He also averaged 50.3 yards on seven punts. WR Jeremy Kerley had an inexplicably poor day on punt returns as he took two fair catches inside the Jets’ 10-yard line and tried returning another one. WR T.J. Graham opened the game filling in for WR Percy Harvin on kickoff returns and twice failed to reach the 20-yard line on kickoffs he took in the end zone, but he redeemed himself by recovering a fumble by Titans RB Leon Washington on the Jets’ free kick following the second-quarter safety. Washington had a 46-yard punt return to set up a Titans field goal. Harvin had one kickoff return for 33 yards in the fourth quarter.

–COACHING: B — Rex Ryan is probably going to lose his job in two weeks, but his ability to continually get the Jets to play hard in a long-lost season will serve him well as he attempts to land another head coaching gig. That the Jets had to work so hard to beat such a feeble opponent is a damning indictment of their talent level, though.


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