Then came the fourth quarter, and David Harris and his stingy teammates were back to being dominant.
Harris had an interception and a big sack on Tennessee's last two drives, and Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and bulldozed his way in for another as the Jets stayed undefeated by holding on for a 24-17 victory over the Titans on Sunday.
"They kind of got the momentum on their side and we hit a little bit of a slump," nose tackle Kris Jenkins said. "It was just one of those things where at that point, we understood we had to rally and I think we showed everybody that we were going to still get it together."
They sure did, shutting down the Titans with the game on the line -- twice.
Sanchez became the first rookie quarterback to start a season and win in his first three games, helping the Jets to the fourth 3-0 start in franchise history. Rex Ryan also joined Al Groh (2000) as the only Jets coaches to win their first three games.
"I'd like to say that this is exactly what I predicted, but we played three outstanding football teams," Ryan said. "We're 3-0 right here. Maybe that says something about us."
New York's defense, which came in ranked No. 1, allowed its first touchdowns of the season. But the Jets turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter and stopped Kerry Collins, who was 0 for his last 13 as the Titans fell to 0-3.
"No panic stage, nothing," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We're going to keep working."
After Chris Hope picked off Sanchez, the Titans got the ball back with a chance to tie. Five plays later, Harris stepped in front of a pass intended for Alge Crumpler to squash the drive.
The Jets couldn't put it away, though, going four-and-out after a holding penalty. But, the defense -- and another loud Meadowlands crowd -- was there again to bail out New York.
"For anybody out there who thinks that this is a gimmick defense and can't play smashmouth," linebacker Bart Scott said, "how dare you."
After a 12-yard run by Chris Johnson and an incompletion, the Titans had a false start. Harris then sacked Collins for an 8-yard loss to push Tennessee back to its 33. Collins then misfired on his last two pass attempts to seal it for the Jets.
"He made two great plays," cornerback Darrelle Revis said of Harris. "He needs to get more credit for his play."
Sanchez finished 17 of 30 for 171 yards and TD tosses to Jerricho Cotchery and Ben Hartsock. Collins was 15 of 37 for 170 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions.
"It's frustrating," Collins said. "By no means can we start pointing fingers and start pushing panic buttons. We've just got to stay together and keep believing in what we are doing and we'll get it turned around."
Johnson had 97 yards on 22 carries a week after he set a career high with 197 yards rushing.
New York took a 21-17 lead after Ryan Mouton muffed a punt and the ball was recovered by Larry Izzo. Four plays later, Sanchez found Cotchery in the front of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
Jay Feely added a 30-yard field goal to make it 24-17 with 11:36 remaining.
The Jets took a quick lead, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions, including an impressive run by Sanchez.
Facing third-and-10 from the 14, Sanchez took off and took a hard shot from Michael Griffin, but pushed through into the end zone.
"That felt pretty good," Sanchez said with a grin. "That was a big-time hit on the goal line."
The ball came out, but after it crossed the goal line.
"I hadn't had a rushing touchdown probably since high school," Sanchez said, "at least a long rushing touchdown, and 14 is long for me."
Scott ripped Griffin for failing to make the play.
"I think that guy should be embarrassed," Scott said. "Maybe Sanchez's post-rookie player card should have that runover on the end of it. He should be embarrassed. They should make it a Fathead."
Collins gave the Titans a 17-14 lead 3:26 into the second half when he hit Nate Washington for 9-yard touchdown.
With New York leading 7-0, Mouton returned a kickoff 14 yards before he was hit by Jason Trusnik, who forced the ball out and recovered it at the Jets 19. New York capitalized from the 2 when Sanchez faked a handoff to Thomas Jones and threw to a wide-open Hartsock, who scored his first career touchdown.
The Jets were wearing their 1960 Titans of New York mustard yellow and navy uniforms, while the Titans wore their Houston Oilers' powder blue and white duds in honor of the 50th anniversary of the AFL's inaugural season. ... Fisher said safety Vincent Fuller broke his right arm late in the first quarter. ... Sanchez's TD run was the longest by a Jets quarterback since Richard Todd had a 16-yard scramble in 1980.