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Titans, Jets ready to run right at each other

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Titans, Jets ready to run right at each other

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The New York Jets turned to the running game over the past month to help limit turnovers and have ground away enough to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Chris Johnson is ready to help the Titans snap a three-game losing streak if Tennessee and its new offensive coordinator can get him the ball more often.

``If the running game gets going, I can make plays in the running game and I think we can win these last three games,'' Johnson said.

The Jets and Titans sound ready for some old-school football Monday night when simply winning matters above all, even if New York has something more to play for than Tennessee. The Jets (6-7) are a game out of the AFC's sixth and final playoff seed and finish against three teams with losing records starting with the Titans (4-9).

``We're not really thinking about the playoffs right now,'' Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ``We're just trying to string together a couple of wins. We know we have a big challenge in Nashville on Monday night. It's a good opportunity for our team to hopefully play well. I think we had a good day today. It should be fun for us.''

The Titans already are eliminated and trying to keep jobs. They also want to prove to owner Bud Adams in the process that they are improving, even if this season has been ugly on the field with losses in four of the past five games. Frustrations grew after blowing a 20-7 halftime lead last week in losing 27-23 at Indianapolis.

``We're just tired of losing,'' Titans safety Michael Griffin said. ``Everybody's motivated still to go out and play football and try to get a win.''

The Jets have done just that in winning, even if it hasn't been pretty. They have won two straight and three of four by running as much as possible, averaging 146.5 yards the past four games - fourth-best in the AFC in that stretch. It's helped take the ball away from Sanchez, who has one more interception (13) than touchdown passes (12) along with a banged-up receiving corps.

Shonn Green and Bilal Powell have been splitting the work and the yards, helping the Jets pull out ugly wins over Arizona and Jacksonville the past two games. Powell has a sore toe, but X-rays show it's not broken for some good news for New York. Now Tim Tebow's two broken ribs are feeling better, and coach Rex Ryan said that may bring the wildcat option back into play for the Jets.

``It's good, I think the run game has really picked up,'' Sanchez said.

``I think the offense played really well, exceptionally well. Early in the game, those shorter runs have yielded bigger gains later on. I'm proud of that front five and even our big guys coming in to block, the receivers look good blocking downfield. We've been, for the most part, efficient in the passing game. It's been a good combination for us.''

Sanchez also should have receiver Braylon Edwards available Monday night after being claimed off waivers from Seattle on Tuesday. He has caught eight passes for 74 yards in 10 games with Seattle and has been hampered by a sore hamstring. The Jets have thrown for 129 yards or less in six games this season, including just 104 yards in the 17-10 win at Jacksonville last week.

``Whatever the game plan dictates and however the game goes,'' Sanchez said. ``We've been fortunate to be able to run the ball well these last couple weeks. We'll take it one game at a time.''

Griffin knows what to expect from the Jets.

``I'm pretty sure they watch film and see some teams have been able to run the ball on us,'' the Titans safety said.

Tennessee is allowing 129.4 yards rushing per game, 27th in the league, and couldn't get off the field last week to get the ball back for the offense.

The Titans haven't run much the past two games since Dowell Loggains took over at coordinator. They haven't had many chances with Jake Locker turning the ball over seven times, and they also unveiled a revamped offensive line last week after losing two more starters to injuries. Left tackle Michael Roos is the only starter left from the original line.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said they definitely need to get the run game going and ease the pressure on their first-year starting quarterback.

``Yeah, it's going to be big,'' Munchak said. ``We know they're going to try to run it a lot. It should be a challenge on both ends, for us to be able to run it, and for us to be able to stop the run.''

Ryan has had his hands full trying to rally the Jets, who started the season with high expectations but haven't been above .500 since their 2-1 start. He's looking ahead only to this game.

``We've just been trying to get our team to improve, and that's really where my focus has been,'' Ryan said.

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Lamar Jackson continues to dazzle, sets new career-high in passing touchdowns

Lamar Jackson continues to dazzle, sets new career-high in passing touchdowns

The Ravens have enjoyed as close to a perfect start to their season on offense as possible. The key has been Lamar Jackson’s newfound passing ability, the missing element from his dynamic game last season.

Need more proof than the highlights you saw all week? How about this: Lamar Jackson tossed six touchdown passes in his entire rookie season. He already has seven before halftime of the second game of his 2019 season.

It’s not just a personal best for Jackson. Seven passing touchdowns through two weeks is already a franchise record, and Jackson accomplished it in just six quarters.
 
Jackson has already established a few favorite targets. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown caught two long touchdown passes in Miami, and four early passes early in Week 2.

But it’s been the tight ends Jackson really has his eyes on, and for good reason. Jackson’s accuracy has been remarkably improved in his sophomore year, but it’s been on another level when targeting his tight ends, with Jackson a perfect 20-for-20 throwing to the position early on.

For a team with lots of unproven talent in its pass-catching corps, this level of success comes as a pleasant surprise.

The Ravens have quickly become one of the most exciting offenses to watch in the NFL, thanks to both Jackson and the creative coaching staff.

Oh, and just in case you thought Jackson was a pure pocket passer now? He also has seven rushing attempts for 64 yards in the first half against the Cardinals.

Lamar Jackson is a cheat code, and this likely won’t be the last time he sets a franchise record for the Ravens this season.

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Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

WASHINGTON -- Questions to be answered Sunday morning: How was Charlie Culberson? What did Fernando Rodney think? Why did he remain in the game? What exactly transpired between Davey Martinez and the umpires Saturday night?

First, Culberson. The Braves announced he has multiple facial fractures. He left the hospital Saturday night and slept at the hotel. Sunday, he flew back to Atlanta to be further evaluated.

“I talked to Charlie just a little bit ago,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He sounded good. One of the trainers will accompany him back to Atlanta and let the eye doctor and the specialist see him. I didn’t see him. I talked to him. The guys that did see him said he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good, for what he’d been through. It’s all very encouraging.”

All things considered, this is one of the better scenarios after a 91-mph fastball hit Culberson on the upper right side of his face in the seventh inning Saturday. The game froze, Rodney’s face went blank and a hush dropped over the crowd. Rodney was not in the clubhouse when reporters entered Saturday night following an extended delay. Sunday morning, a still-concerned Rodney explained how he felt in the moment and afterward.

“I really don't know what's going on,” Rodney said. “I only saw that I hit him in the face, it was a scary moment for me, the player, for them. The reaction ... that's part of the game sometimes. I don't want to hit nobody, no matter where, but I don't want to hit no player."

What were you thinking when it appeared you wanted to come to the plate?

“I wanted to say sorry,” Rodney said. “I want to say sorry because I don't want that to happen to nobody. Sometimes ... a lot of things happen in this game."

Did you want to still pitch afterward?

"Really after that I say [in my head] I don't want to,” Rodney said. “I feel sorry that that happen. I feel like I tried to do something, I'm supposed to do, but that's baseball. You have to continue to keep working... You try to recover your mind and keep going and doing your thing."

Which leads to the next question. Why was Rodney still in the game after the incident? Multiple opportunities existed to remove him. After he struck out Adam Duvall, who replaced Culberson, was a chance. Two batters later -- following back-to-back doubles, one of them a bloop by Ozzie Albies -- was another. Instead, Rodney remained in the game while it unwound.

Martinez said Sunday neither he nor pitching coach Paul Menhart spoke with Rodney after the incident. Instead, they motioned to him to see if he was all right.

“Kind of made little gestures to him back and forth,” Martinez said. “And he was saying he wanted to stay in. I talked to him [Sunday] again, he said he never wants to hit anybody. He said, I know as much as that moment you feel bad, but he said I had to pitch. I know that. Trying to win a game, I had to pitch, he said [Sunday] is another day and if I need him, he’s ready to pitch.”

Part of the fallout from the night includes criticism of Martinez for asking the umpires to check if the pitch should be called a strike. Home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Timmons told a pool reporter Saturday night:

“The very first concern was clearly for (Culberson). In the process of asking him to stay on the ground and not move and the trainer getting out there and them starting to look at him. After we got into that a little bit, Dave Martinez was saying something to me. I couldn’t hear him. So, I walked over and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘We’d like you to check on whether or not he offered at the pitch.’ I said, ‘Okay, I understand. I’ll do that.’ At which point, I went to first base umpire Bill Welke and asked him if he had him offer at the pitch. He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ So, that’s the situation.”

Martinez disputed that characterization of the situation Sunday.

“I really don't want to talk about that,” Martinez said. “I had a conversation with [Timmons]. The way it sounded was not the way...let's just say that. So, um. But, as a manager, it's kind of my job -- we're in a 1-1 game. That's all I'm going to say. It stinks. It wasn't the way it was portrayed to be.”

Martinez was asked what’s the line between trying to win the game and handling the situation with sensitivity.

“I'm going to be honest with you, the last thing I wanted to do was be a jackass,” Martinez said. “I'll tell you right now. All right? But, they get it. They understood. It's part of the game. We're in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It's unfortunate. It stunk. As we all recall, we had a player [Trea Turner] break his finger in two places because he got hit and he had to go back and we had to get somebody else to hit for him.”

Snitker said he understood, from a competitive perspective, why Martinez would talk to the umpires.

“I’m sure they don’t like doing it,” Snitker said. “I guess over the course of a game, that’s one of the things you do ask about. Hard as it might be, you’re still within your right to do that.”

Though, Snitker continued to disagree with the umpire’s conclusion that Culberson swung at the pitch.

Martinez called Snitker on Sunday morning to express his, and Rodney’s, sympathies. Baseball resumed at 1:35 p.m. Rodney went down to the bullpen. Martinez took his spot on the dugout steps. Culberson went home to heal.

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