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Jets' playoff hopes end in 14-10 loss to Titans

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Jets' playoff hopes end in 14-10 loss to Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Rex Ryan has stuck up for Mark Sanchez from the start. Watching the quarterback literally throw away the Jets' slim playoff hopes with a season-high five turnovers against Tennessee may be the final straw for New York's coach.

Sanchez turned the ball over on the Jets' final three possessions Monday night, the last a fumbled snap at the Tennessee 25 with 43 seconds left, and the Titans held on for a 14-10 victory that knocked New York out of postseason contention.

``Obviously, it's a devastating loss, out of the playoffs, and it hurts beyond belief,'' Ryan said. ``I think the thing that really hurts the most is we've got no one to blame but ourselves.''

The Jets (6-8) needed to win out and get some help to reach the playoffs, and they had an easy schedule against three straight losing teams. Instead, the Jets will be sitting at home in January for a second straight season after Sanchez helped New York reach the AFC title game in his first two years.

``Obviously, this isn't what I thought this football team would be,'' Ryan said. ``There's no doubt about that. I thought we'd be in the playoffs, but that's not where we are. We have two games left and I believe my team's going to give everything we have and we're going to try like crazy to win these games. As a competitor, that's all you have left and that's what we're going to do.''

Ryan was left cursing to himself as he walked off the field after his defense had given the Jets an improbable chance to win despite an ugly performance. With first-and-10 at the Titans 25, Sanchez lined up in the shotgun but couldn't grab a low snap that running back Bilal Powell inadvertently kicked away.

Titans rookie linebacker Zach Brown covered it up to seal the win.

``We had our chance and fell flat on (our) face,'' Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said.

Sanchez, the No. 5 pick overall in 2009, now has 24 turnovers this season and 50 total in the past two seasons combined. Sanchez was curt in speaking to reporters after going 13 of 28 for 131 yards and a 32.6 passer rating.

``It doesn't feel good hurting your team like that,'' Sanchez said. ``It's not a winning formula. It never feels good.''

Now Ryan has to decide which quarterback to start Sunday when the Jets host San Diego, and he didn't give any hints Monday night. Sanchez said he will prepare as the starter and see what happens.

Backup quarterback Tim Tebow played a full series in a move Sanchez said Ryan planned before the game, picking up a couple of first downs and getting sacked before a punt. Greg McElroy, who came on in relief when Sanchez was benched Dec. 2 and led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona, was inactive with the Jets keeping six receivers on a banged-up unit.

Ryan refused to say if he regretted not activating McElroy.

``I just regret not winning this game,'' Ryan said. ``I think that's the big thing.''

The Jets made sure Tennessee didn't score a point off all those turnovers. Chris Johnson ran 94 yards in the second quarter for the longest rushing touchdown in the NFL since 2006, and Jake Locker scored on a 13-yard quarterback sweep at the end of the third quarter for all the points Tennessee (5-9) needed.

The Titans snapped a three-game skid by also getting four sacks and Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin each had two interceptions. The Tennessee defense came in giving up 29.9 points in the NFL, more than all but Oakland coming into this week, and they held the Jets to 254 yards.

That helped Tennessee to its first win since Nov. 11 at Miami.

``The bottom line is we hung in there, something we haven't been able to do the last two, three weeks of hold onto a lead or find a way to win in the fourth quarter, and this time we did,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said. ``It's good to win again. It's been a while.''

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for victims of the shootings Friday in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother in her home before committing suicide.

Johnson had the names of all the victims written on the two shoes he wore for the game. He also had the words ``RIP SHES'' and a cross written on each shoe, calling it a way to pay tribute to the hurting families. The Jets had an ``SHES'' decal on their helmets.

The Titans running back ran for 122 yards and got most of it on his franchise-record TD run when he went untouched, taking advantage of a block by Kyle DeVan, who replaced Kevin Matthews at center after he sprained his right ankle in the first quarter.

I just read it and stayed with it and cut back through the offensive line, that's when I saw the daylight,'' Johnson said.

NOTES: The Jets also had five turnovers in their Thanksgiving night loss to New England. Sanchez had two in that game. ... The Titans' previous record for the longest run in franchise history was 91 yards, a mark shared by Johnson and Sid Blanks. Johnson had a 91-yard run against the Houston Texans in 2009. Blanks also did it against the Jets, on Dec. 13, 1964. ... Chester Taylor had a 95-yard TD in a 31-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 22, 2006. ... The Jets had won the last two and four of the past five meetings between the teams. ... Braylon Edwards, claimed off waivers last Tuesday by the Jets, caught three passes for 47 yards.

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Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen face off at crossroads of past and future of NFL

Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen face off at crossroads of past and future of NFL

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hayden Hurst had just been picked 25th overall by the Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft when he left his living room to do some interviews, customary for a team’s top draft choice.

When he returned and looked at his TV, he was teammates with Lamar Jackson.

Hurst, who wasn’t as high-profile of a selection as his future quarterback, knew about Jackson’s story — as every college football player did — before they even became teammates.

“As soon as I saw that I was like, ‘Man that’s so cool,’” Hurst recalled. “You see Lamar in college, the Heisman Trophy winner, the things that he did in college, you’re like, ‘To be on the field with that guy is going to be pretty special.’”

Jackson’s journey to the NFL didn’t end that night, however, as the 2018 NFL Draft gave a special look at the ways that different organizations value quarterbacks, and specifically what characteristics they find valuable when investing in young talent. 

Jackson was selected by the Ravens 32nd overall after he declared for the draft and forewent his senior season.

Earlier in the first round the Bills also traded up to seventh overall, for a quarterback. It was for Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

Allen was, in many ways, the complete opposite from Jackson: He’s 6-foot-5, was a more traditional pocket passer, had played in a pro style offense and has a cannon for an arm.

In the minds of many, Allen fit what a quarterback was supposed to look like, even as a new age of quarterbacks trickled into the league.

Their college careers, however, couldn’t have been more different.

At Louisville, Jackson averaged 346.7 total yards and just over three touchdowns per game as he ran roughshod throughout the country, leading Louisville to as high as the No. 3 ranking the national polls in 2016.

Allen started two full seasons at Wyoming and while he had a promising junior year, his interception totals always were a bit higher than desirable and his completion percentage never eclipsed 57 percent. He was selected to the Mountain West Conference honorable mention team in his senior year.

It was Allen’s physical traits, however, that put him at the top of draft boards. 

Jackson’s skillset, while new and exciting, wasn’t something NFL front offices were used to picking high up in the draft for. Allen, a pocket-passing quarterback with a game-changing arm, was familiar.

“It’s like the guy who has dated the girl for 10 years,” Robert Griffin III said. “Yeah, maybe that’s not the right girl for him, maybe that’s not his soulmate. But he’s comfortable. He’s comfortable with that person, so he stays. A lot of people don’t like change. So some of the scouts and GMs and organizations get used to these certain ways of doing things.”

And as Jackson’s career turned professional, questions persisted about Jackson’s long-term viability in the NFL. Some said he should change positions (which has sparked many a t-shirt from the Ravens players about his “potential” at running back), others questioned just how translatable his stats were to the NFL.

“He was the best player in college football,” Hurst said. “The year he didn’t win the Heisman, his stats were even better than when he did win the Heisman. So it’s crazy how that stuff works. When he was in college, he was the best player in the country. The stuff that he did was just remarkable.”

Most of the NFL, including the Ravens, passed on the opportunity to take Jackson in the first round. In fact, the Ravens traded back twice from 16 to 22, and then from 22 to 25, before selecting Hurst. Finally, they traded up into the first round to select Jackson. 

While the Ravens certainly weren’t the only team interested in Jackson’s skillset, they were the most aggressive. And through nearly two seasons, the move has been a home run.

Jackson is just 63 yards away from breaking Michael Vick’s single season rushing record for a quarterback of 1,039 yards. 

He’s second in the NFL in touchdown passes (25) and is on-pace for 3,376 yards passing, 33 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 66.5 percent. He’s also on-pace for 1,303 yards on the ground with nine touchdowns. 

That would mean he’d end the year with 4,679 total yards, 42 touchdowns and eight turnovers. 

So while Jackson’s season might change perceptions about mobile quarterbacks, there aren’t many athletes that replicate what Jackson does on the field.

“I think it changes a little bit, but at the same time, there’s no one else that’s like Lamar,” Mark Andrews, a 2018 Ravens draft pick, said. “There’s no one that’s going to be able to replicate what he’s being able to do.” 

And the problem with finding a replica Lamar Jackson is simply that they don’t exist.

In a twist, Allen has become an efficient runner in the NFL — not to the extent of Jackson — but has been able to extend plays with his legs more than he did at Wyoming.

Allen has rushed for 35.8 yards per game this year, slightly behind his 52.6 yard pace from last season.

His passing numbers have improved as well, as his completion percentage has broken 60 percent and his touchdown-to-interception ratio has improved to 2:1.

But while Allen, Jackson and the class of 2018 will forever be linked, Jackson doesn’t keep tabs on how his draft counterparts are faring across the league. 

“I’m focused on what we have going on, what we have in front of us,” Jackson said. “I focus on myself and my teammates. I don’t really care about what other people have going on, to be honest.”

So while Jackson downplays the 2018 draft and his impact on the league at-large, the decision to pass on Jackson — for any reason — is one that’s making teams reconsider what they missed. 

And those decisions have left Jackson, whether or not he’ll admit it publicly, motivated to prove people wrong.

“I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but I can only imagine that it would,” Hurst said. “If I was in that situation, I know that it’d fire me up quite a bit. He’s not super vocal about stuff like that, he just goes about his business quietly, but I’m sure it definitely fuels his fire a little bit. Hey, I’m all for it because he’s playing his [expletive] off right now.”

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Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson didn’t grow up watching Michael Vick play football in Atlanta. He was too young. 

That didn't stop Jackson, born when Vick had just finished his sophomore year of high school, from studying Vick's highlight tapes as a kid.

Now, on Sunday in Buffalo, Jackson has the chance to put his name in the record books ahead of his favorite player with the most impressive season a quarterback has ever had on the ground. 

With just 63 yards rushing, Jackson would rank first all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. The record, as of Thursday, is held by Vick with 1,039 yards rushing. Vick set the record in 2006 with the Falcons.

“It would be an honor,” Jackson said. “Like I said, Michael Vick is my favorite player. For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win, regardless.”

Jackson has led the NFL’s most dynamic offense through the first 12 games with a mix of rushing and passing that’s kept defenses on their heels. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 977 yards, which is more than five teams have as a whole.

Currently, Jackson has rushed for 1,672 yards in 28 games in his NFL career, good for 44th all-time. 

Over a 16-game season, he’s on pace for 1,302 yards on the ground, which would shatter Vick’s old record and put Jackson in another stratosphere compared to some of the best mobile quarterbacks the league has ever seen. 

Should he finish with 1,302 yards this year, he’ll be at 1,997 yards through his first two NFL seasons. That would put him 32nd all-time and about 500 yards away from cracking the top 20. 

So as Jackson adds to his place in history in the long term, there’s a significant record to break in the short-term, too.

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