NASHVILLE, TN, Nov. 23, 2008 — At 35 years old, Kerry Collins doesn't have a chance at many career firsts these days.
The Titans had few answers for Jets QB Brett Favre, who often got rid of the ball before pressure arrived.
He's started in a Super Bowl, made the Pro Bowl and passed for 182 career touchdowns. At least one accomplishment has eluded him: beating Brett Favre.
Favre's team has now gotten the best of Collins five-out-of-five times. In their first meeting, Favre and Green Bay beat Collins and Carolina 30-13 in the 1996 NFC Championship. In their latest, Favre ended Tennessee's bid at perfection.
Hyped as the Battle of the Graybeards, Sunday's game between the Titans and Jets featured the 39-year-old Brett Favre and Collins, who turns 36 in December.
It was the elder Favre that directed the Jets to 34 points against the NFL's stingiest defense. Favre jabbed with quick releases, rocketing the ball to receivers on short routes or dumping the ball over Tennessee's line for effective screens. Favre never drew back his arm and walloped the Titans deep, but the flurry of barbs took a toll. The Jets were able to bypass Tennessee's pressure and thus neutralize the defense.
"Our front line gets a good push. Credit [Favre] for getting the ball out so quick," cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "Brett Favre, even when he wasn't getting it out quick, he was buying time for his guys to get open."
With the Packers utilizing so many three- and five-step drops, content to pinpoint the first down marker, the Titans couldn't disrupt Jets receivers. Favre completed 25-of-32 passes for 224 yards with two touchdowns against one interception.
"You've got to be on your coverages. Make them hold the ball. Make him not be able to go to his first look," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "He did a great job of knowing where he was going to go and their receivers did a good job of catching the ball."
Favre said he noticed Tennessee's pressure even though he doubts Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) is completely healthy. Favre also said the Jets' game plan involved one-man routes like a slant to Laveranues Coles where Jerricho Cotchery didn't even have a route on the play.
"Any defense that gets to you as quickly as they do, the last thing you want to do is hold the ball," Favre said. "The short passing game, if you're good at it, obviously takes away a little bit of their pass rush."
With Tennessee's legs wobbly, Favre delivered the knockout punch on a two-yard touchdown pass to Coles with 3:08 left in the third quarter that gave New York a 20-3 lead. The touchdown came after Chris Johnson's first NFL fumble. Bryan Thomas recovered it for the Jets to set up a short field at Tennessee's 35.
"It's always frustrating being a running back and fumbling the ball, but playing the game, that type of stuff happens," Johnson said.
Tennessee's passing game delivered few blows of its own. The Jets' defenders played physical and the Titans dropped five passes in the first half, missing several others on well-defended attempts. Collins finished with 243 passing yards, but sat at 54 yards after Coles' touchdown, gaining most of his total after the game had been decided.
Though Bulluck said it wasn't a factor, New York held the ball for 40:30, a decided advantage over Tennessee's 19:30.
"I think if we'd have caught some of them balls, it would've changed the momentum of the game," said tight end Bo Scaife, who found a seam over the middle in the first half but dropped a well-placed pass from Collins. "We can't let Brett have the ball for 40 minutes and leave our defense out there. We woke up a little late today."
THIN SECONDARY: Chris Carr started at left cornerback for Tennessee Sunday.
Starter Nick Harper missed his second straight game with a foot injury. The Titans placed Eric King and Reynaldo Hill on injured reserve. Carr and Cortland Finnegan are the only two healthy cornerbacks that were on the roster to start the season, but refused to believe that impacted the game Sunday.
"Everybody picks up. Everybody's a starter out there. There's no slack. Absolutely not," Finnegan said.
King had surgery earlier this week after he broke his forearm against Jacksonville. Hill injured his hip in the same game.
The Titans promoted Tuff Harris from the practice squad and signed free agent cornerback Tyrone Poole. The 36-year-old Poole's played for five NFL teams in his career and spent training camp with the Denver Broncos this year before being cut. Poole's last NFL game was Dec. 31, 2006, when he played the New York Jets as an Oakland Raider.
Harris jolted Leon Washington, stopping the punt returner for no gain in the first quarter. Poole also finished with one tackle.
FINNEGAN INT:Finnegan collected his fifth interception of the season on an acrobatic catch over Laverneous Coles.
Finnegan made a leaping left-handed catch, yanking the ball away from Coles and emerging from the ensuing scrim with it raised over his head.
"They try to play for my aggressiveness and Favre just threw it up there," Finnegan said. "You know sometimes he's willing to do that. So you've got to capitalize on it."
On one play, Favre actually lined up in a three-point stance at wide receiver across from Finnegan, who delivered a couple shots to the future Hall of Famer's shoulders. Finnegan said after the game Favre's arm strength at 39 impressed him.
"I think he has two right arms. That's just between you and me. He's definitely special," Finnegan said. "He's the real deal, man. If I was a quarterback I'd be Brett Favre."
HISTORIC GAME AT QB:The historic matchup marked the third time in NFL history that the two starting quarterbacks have combined for over 100,000 career passing yards. Favre is the NFL's all-time leading passer with 64,116 and Collins ranks 14th with 36,715. The other two: John Elway-Dan Marino in 1998 (109,224) and Vinny Testaverde-Brett Favre in 2007 (105,979).
1,000-YARD DASH:Chris Johnson became the seventh rookie in franchise history to gain 1,000 yards from scrimmage on a 24-yard second quarter carry. Johnson's totaled 833 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He rushed 10 times for 46 yards against New York.
HAYNESWORTH DINGED:Albert Haynesworth banged off Brett Favre and got clipped by a diving Jevon Kearse's shoulder. Haynesworth sprawled face-down for a few moments before walking off the field, appearing dazed and grasping at the air with his hands.
Haynesworth, who played with a concussion during the second half against Jacksonville earlier this season, returned in the second half and finished with 1.5 sacks to give him a team-leading 8.5 for the season.
PASS INTERFERENCE: Up 27-13 and facing third-and-8, Favre caught Chris Carr wrapping an arm around Coles, drawing a pass interference penalty met with heavy protest from the Titans sideline and the fans in attendance. Later in the same drive, Carr got flagged for interference again working against Coles near the goal line. Washington scored on a 4-yard run for the game's final points.
"We lost the game before that. The Jets deserved to win that game. I'm not trying to blame the officials or trying to make an excuse for foul play today because we didn't play that well," Carr said. "You watched that game, you know who deserved to win that football game, and the Jets deserved to win."
KVB RETURNS:Kyle Vanden Bosch returned after missing nearly all of the last five games.
Vanden Bosch combined with Haynesworth for a half sack and finished with six total tackles.
"Mentally I had some questions going into this game, but it held up. I felt good," Vanden Bosch said.
Vanden Bosch injured his groin Oct. 5 at Baltimore. He played a few downs against Kansas City Oct. 19 and Green Bay Nov. 2, recording one tackle and leaving in the first half of both games.
Dave Ball and Jacob Ford had filled in for Vanden Bosch, combining for six sacks in the past three games.
Defensive tackle Jason Jones (foot) and defensive end William Hayes (knee) were inactive Sunday.
J-E-F-F:Tennessee rolled out a Titans version of the Jets' famous J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! cheer during a pregame sketch involving the mascot T-Rac. He altered the chant to J-E-F-F Jeff, Jeff, Jeff! for head coach Jeff Fisher.