EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Herman Edwards had one demand of his New York Jets on Monday night: leave the Meadowlands with a win.
Chad Pennington overcame a shaky start to throw two-second half touchdown passes and the New York Jets beat Steve McNair and Tennessee Titans 24-17.
The Titans (9-3) lost for the first time in seven games and wasted a perfect chance to take sole possession of the AFC South after Indianapolis lost to New England on Sunday. They now have to wait another week for that to happen, with a home showdown against the Colts this weekend.
The Jets (5-7), meanwhile, kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
''A lot of people think when you're 4-7, you're trying to get the season over with. But it's not about next year,'' Edwards said. ''It's about every time you play the game you try to win. That's how we're going to play around here. We're not worried about next year. We're going to win games this year.''
Curtis Martin said when Edwards told the team he expected them to win, everyone listened.
''When your leader stands up and says something like that, you feel obligated to carry it out,'' Martin said.
McNair started the game despite a strained right calf, but was mostly ineffective. He finished 21-of-35 for 272 yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions. He threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Derrick Mason with 1:52 remaining to get the Titans within a touchdown, but Chris Baker recovered the onside kick for the Jets to close out the win.
Mason finished with 11 receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown.
''The leg was not a factor in how I played tonight,'' McNair said. ''It's not an excuse. We didn't execute as well as we should.''
Pennington, meanwhile, finished 18-of-23 for 231 yards for his third win in five starts since returning from a broken left wrist.
He threw two first-half interceptions, including one in the end zone, and challenged himself to do better in the second half. Pennington did more than that. He was perfect, going 8-for-8 for 134 yards and the two scores.
''We believe we're a good team,'' Pennington said. ''We just didn't make the plays earlier in the year. Tonight the Jets stood up and made the plays. We're not going to look ahead. We've got a long road ahead of us.''
After the Titans tied the game at 10 on a 35-yard field goal by Gary Anderson in the third quarter, Pennington engineered two straight scoring drives to take control of the game.
The first featured a little trickery. A reverse to Santana Moss gained 6 yards, and a flea flicker that Pennington threw to Curtis Conway got them 27 yards to the Titans 27.
On the next play, Pennington threw a beautiful 27-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Swayne for a 17-10 lead. It was Swayne's first reception of the year and his first career touchdown catch.
''I knew I had a good opportunity because I was facing bump coverage,'' Swayne said. ''It was just a matter of just doing my job. I'm just happy I could contribute.''
After forcing the Titans to punt, Pennington put the Jets up by two touchdowns thanks to Moss. On second-and-5 from the 42, Pennington threw a pass to Baker. But the ball deflected off his hands and up, and Moss was there to catch the ball and make a 32-yard completion.
Conway then caught an 8-yard touchdown pass, barely keeping his toes inbounds, to cap the drive. Conway finished with five receptions for 78 yards and the score.
''We've been clicking lately and we wanted to come in and prove what type of team we are,'' Conway said. ''We're not looking beyond anything or anyone. You can't look at what-ifs and what happened. We just want to keep winning games and win out if we can.''
McNair tried to rally the Titans, but Sam Garnes broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Erron Kinney on fourth-and-goal with 5:21 remaining.
McNair started off well, throwing a 59-yard touchdown pass to Justin McCareins on the opening drive for a quick 7-0 lead. It was the longest completion for the Titans this season.
The Jets tied it up on the following possession. After converting a fourth-and-1 from the Titans 14 when Pennington completed a 4-yard pass to Jerald Sowell, the Jets faced second-and-goal from the 12.
Pennington threw a fade to Moss in the right corner of the end zone, but Samari Rolle got his hands on the ball. Officials initially ruled it an interception, and Rolle did a throat slash gesture that earned him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
But the Jets challenged the call, and the official ruled that Rolle did not have possession. The Jets got an automatic first down at the 6, and Curtis Martin ran in for the score on the following play for his first touchdown of the season.
Doug Brien kicked a 27-yard field goal just before the break to give the Jets a 10-7 lead.
The Jets now hope to follow Edwards' edict for Monday and win the rest of their games.
''It's like we're fighting harder and harder very week,'' Martin said. ''Every week we find another way to fight. Things are finally starting to turn around for us.'' Notes: Titans LB Rocky Calmus broke his right leg in the second quarter. ... Santana Moss was held without a touchdown catch for the first time in eight games. ... Titans CB Andre Dyson got his career-high fourth interception. ... The Titans played without defensive end Jevon Kearse, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.