NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—The Tennessee Titans have a chance to win their way into their first playoff berth since 2003, thanks to help from Cincinnati and their own stingy, quarterback-hitting defense.
Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch had three of Tennessee’s six sacks and Chris Brown ran for a touchdown as the Titans beat the New York Jets 10-6 on Sunday for their third victory in four games and their first winning season since 2003.
The Titans (9-6) knew the Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns 19-14, giving them the edge in tiebreakers if tied at 10-6 for the AFC’s final wild-card berth once the regular season ends. It gave them a boost, but they still had to beat the Jets (3-12) in the easiest path to the playoffs.
“We knew the outcome of that game before kickoff,” Vanden Bosch said. “We like being in control of our destiny.”
Now they must close out the season with a victory over the defending Super Bowl champs in Indianapolis, a game that will be in prime-time after NBC chose to move from a 1 p.m. EST kickoff to 8:15 p.m. under its agreement with the NFL.
The Jets had originally been scheduled to play in that game against Kansas City, but it will be played at 4:15 instead.
It wasn’t pretty Sunday.
The Titans went out and survived a sloppy game in which Vince Young was sacked three times and lost two turnovers. It was more than enough for Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who gave his players a pep talk on the sideline before the second-half kickoff.
“We did what we had to do to win this game, and I’m very proud of them,” Fisher said.
The Jets started Tennessee native Chad Pennington for the first time since Oct. 28. He had been 2-0 with some of his best games against the Titans. He did his best to rally the Jets, but Tony Brown sacked him with 1:50 on fourth-and-4 to allow the Titans to run out the clock for the victory.
Tennessee blew a 14-point lead here Dec. 9 and lost in overtime to San Diego, which is why the Titans needed help in their playoff chase.
This time, LenDale White ran for 7 yards on third-and-6, allowing the Titans to kneel down and run out the clock. He finished with 103 yards for his first 1,000-yard rushing season in his second year.
“We won today. That’s all I’m happy about,” White said. “We fight and we live to see another day.”
The Titans had their TVs on and knew exactly what Cincinnati had done earlier. The public address announcer gave the score of the Bengals game with 11:46 left in the first quarter, bringing a big cheer from the fans.
But the Jets, who held New England to season lows offensively in a 20-10 loss last week, did their best to make it tough on Tennessee. Coach Eric Mangini didn’t announce his staring quarterback, letting Pennington take the field with Kellen Clemens sidelined by sore ribs.
He finished with 264 yards passing, and New York outgained Tennessee 296-273 on offense.
But Pennington’s interceptions were costly. His second was by Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck in the end zone after the Jets took off a 36-yard field goal by Mike Nugent in the second quarter that had given them a 9-6 lead. Tennessee was penalized on the field goal, giving New York a first down.
Pennington said he didn’t see Bulluck until it was too late.
“We played great team defense,” Bulluck said. “We’re not happy with the big plays we gave up. For the most part, we played great team defense. That’s of what we look and hope to do.”
“He’s a very, very good player that has an intense motor,” Mangini said of Vanden Bosch. “You can’t … be a little bit off in your technique or else he’s going to hurt you. He hurt us today. He’s an impressive guy.”
The Jets did their best to confuse Young, blitzing and hitting him repeatedly. Linebacker Victor Hobson was the first, sacking Young on the Titans’ opening drive. The quarterback had to be stretched out on the sideline before the next series.
Young showed the Jets that wrapping him up didn’t always mean they had him. Safety Kerry Rhodes blitzed and had both arms around Young, who slipped out and threw the ball away.
Reynaldo Hill, starting for cornerback Nick Harper who was deactivated because of what team officials called pregame warmup issues, got Tennessee going. He picked off a pass by Pennington intended for Cotchery, and Brown scored five plays later on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Pennington answered with a drive highlighted by two passes to Cotchery for 57 yards, the second a 9-yard TD. But Antwan Odom sliced through a gap and blocked Nugent’s extra point.
Fisher passed George Allen for 27th in NFL history with 119 career wins. … It was Vanden Bosch’s second game this season with three sacks, third of his career. … Bulluck leads the team with a career-best five interceptions. … Jerricho Cotchery finished with eight catches for 152 yards for his first 1,000-yard receiving season of his career. He now has 1,054 yards.