NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Johnson went 94 yards for the longest touchdown run in the NFL since 2006, and the Tennessee Titans beat the Jets 14-10 on Monday night to eliminate New York from playoff contention.
Jake Locker’s first touchdown run of the season put Tennessee ahead late in the third quarter, and the Titans intercepted four passes by a struggling Mark Sanchez to snap a three-game skid.
The Jets (6-8) needed to win their final three games and get help elsewhere to earn an AFC playoff spot. Instead, the Titans sacked Sanchez three times and got a fourth on Tim Tebow. Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin each had two interceptions, keeping the Jets out of the playoffs a second straight season after reaching consecutive AFC title games.
Johnson, with the names of the victims of Friday’s shootings in Connecticut written on his cleats, ran 94 yards for a franchise-record TD in the second quarter. Locker’s 13-yard TD run at the end of the third put the Titans (5-9) ahead to stay.
REDSKINS: The team that was supposedly riding the coattails of Robert Griffin III kept right on winning when those coattails disappeared.
It can no longer be argued that the Redskins are overachievers who are prospering only because of a multidimensional rookie quarterback who stubbornly refuses to give up. They look legitimately like a first-place team — which they now are — having won five straight to put themselves in control of their playoff fate.
With backup Kirk Cousins leading Sunday’s 38-21 win over the Cleveland Browns, Washington (8-6) now has the same record as the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants atop the NFC East and holds the tiebreaker. The Redskins next visit the struggling Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) before hosting a potential all-or-nothing finale against their biggest rival, the Cowboys.
“I’ve never underestimated the importance of Robert,” offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger said. “That guy has put the team on his back many times throughout the year, and we’d certainly like to have him back whenever he does come back on the field.
“But it’s nice, it’s really good, for Kirk to step in and to perform like that. It’s good for the offense as a whole to kind of tell the football world that we’re not just a one-trick pony of having a triple-threat quarterback that can do everything and that’s the only reason we’re winning. Robert certainly is the man, but being able to show that you’re capable without him is a pretty fulfilling thing for us.”
Griffin missed Sunday’s game because of a sprained right knee and is awaiting the doctors’ OK to see if he can return for the Eagles’ game.
The roster has more than its share of rookie contributors: quarterbacks Griffin and Cousins, running back Alfred Morris and punt returner Richard Crawford. Kicker Kai Forbath, who counts technically as a “first-year player” instead of a rookie because he spent a season elsewhere on injured reserve, is one shy of tying the NFL record for consecutive successful field goals to start a career.
“I told our football team at the beginning of the year that, ‘You guys don’t know it, but you guys are a lot better than you think you are.’ They’ve obviously been proving that now,” said Shanahan.
• Tackle Jordan Black was suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances.
Black’s suspension will include postseason games if the Redskins make the playoffs.
BRONCOS: When things weren’t clicking at the beginning of the season, Peyton Manning and his Denver teammates spent most of their time looking at film and working out the kinks on the practice field — and very little time focusing on the standings.
The work is paying off, and if they bothered to look at those standings Monday, they would’ve liked what they saw.
After their runaway win over Baltimore and New England’s loss to San Francisco, the Broncos are the No. 2 seed in the AFC and only need victories at home over Cleveland and Kansas City to wrap up a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Eight of the 10 AFC teams to make the Super Bowl under the current playoff format have had a first-round bye.
“I always thought if we kept getting better, there was no way we couldn’t be one of the top teams,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “It was just a matter of keeping your nose down, not worrying about your record, keep working and everything will take care of itself.”
During their nine-game winning streak — the longest since they won the first 13 games of the 1998 Super Bowl season — the Broncos (11-3) have steadily improved.
“Our goal is to try to get better every week,” said Manning. “I feel like we probably have in some areas. You’re still looking to play that perfect 60-minute game, and that’s your goal every week.”
EAGLES: Back from a concussion that forced him to miss five games, Michael Vick is finishing the season on the sideline. He may not even be active Sunday against Washington.
“I’m a competitor and I’ve always felt like and will continue to feel like I’m one of the best and I can play at a high level and I know I can,” Vick said Monday. “Saying that, I feel like I want to be out there, I want to play as a competitor, but it’s just not the ideal situation right now, the way things are. So, I have to accept my role, accept it like a man and continue to find positives out of it.”
Coach Andy Reid already named rookie Nick Foles the starter for the rest of the season a few weeks ago. The Eagles have been out of playoff contention for a while, so Reid decided to look toward a future that may not include him.
But Reid isn’t the only one likely to go. Vick may have played his last game for the Eagles, too. Vick is due to make nearly $16 million in 2013, far too much for a backup. Only $3 million is guaranteed, however, and the Eagles won’t have to pay that if Vick is cut by Feb. 3.