Many good vibrations accompanied us on our journey to Music City in the American heartland.
But that wasn't enough to sustain us as two good trends went south, one bad trend continued and QB Geno Smith looked very much like the rookie he is in the Jets' 38-13 loss to the Titans at LP Field to fall to 2-2 with a tough stretch ahead, beginning next Monday night at Atlanta.
"Well, we got beat in every phase of the game," head coach Rex Ryan said. "From offense, defense, special teams, coaching, you name it and it shocks me. I never expected for the game to turn out like this."
In the first half, the Titans scored three touchdowns on Jake Locker passes following Smith turnovers — all three on red zone drives — after the Jets had taken the NFL's red zone defensive TD rate leadership. Then they added a fourth turnover TD by backup DE Karl Klug on a Smith strip sack early in the fourth quarter.
And the Jets, who worked all week on reducing their penalties after having 20 flags marked off against them in the win over Buffalo, committed 10 more penalties for 66 yards.
"Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that went well for us," Rex said.
The Jets D, hindered by those TD drives that started on the plus-18, plus-26 and plus-46, still kept close tabs on dangerous RB Chris Johnson (15 carries, 21 yards) and Locker was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter with a right hip injury that occurred during a hard Muhammad Wilkerson pocket pressure.
But the defense couldn't keep 24 points off the board before Ryan Fitzpatrick came on for Locker, and the offense with Geno at the controls still scuffled in putting up only two Nick Folk field goal drives for most of the game.
Then early in the final frame, Smith dropped back from his 16, was immediately set upon by Klug, apparently tried to pass the ball around his back under pressure, and fumbled (his fourth giveaway of the game), with Klug coming up with the ball in the end zone for the Titans' fourth TD of the game with 11:45 left on the clock.
Rex refused to use "growing pains" as the reason for Smith and the offense's four turnovers.
"We don't need to learn any more mistakes. We've got to fix them," he said. "Not just Geno, but all of us."
Smith and the Jets finally found paydirt when Smith whistled a pass to TE Jeff Cumberland — after fellow TE Kellen Winslow caught his fifth pass of the game to surpass 5,000 career receiving yards — for a 34-yard score. With 8:49 left, that touchdown made it 31-13, but it was too little, too late.
Fitzpatrick unloaded on his next play, finding WR Nate Washington for a 77-yard catch-and-run past CB Antonio Cromartie, not to mention back judge Billy Smith, also run over by Washington on the play, with 7:06 remaining.
Difficult Start That Only Got Worse
Smith threw his seventh INT in three games on the second play of the game, with CB Alterraun Verner returning 34 yards to the Jets 18. Stephen Hill left the game from a helmet-to-helmet hit from S Michael Griffin on the play and didn't return.
Five plays later our red zone defense, No. 1 in the NFL but handicapped by that field position, gave up its first TD in eight series as Locker play-actioned to a 1-yard touchdown pass, finding a wide-open Delanie Walker.
A 3-and-out series by Geno and the Jets led to the Titans returning to the red zone, but this time the Jets defense stiffened and yielded just a Rob Bironas field goal for a 10-0 deficit.
Finally the offense kicked in, with the spark a Smith laser under pressure to a diving Santonio Holmes for a 25-yard third-down completion. The drive ended on the first play of the second quarter with Nick Folk's 45-yard field goal, making him 26-for-26 under 60 yards as a Jets kicker since 2010 in the month of September.
Rain, not a good omen if the second half at New England was an indication, started to fall as the Jets got the ball back at their 20 with 13:08 left in the first half. But against a three-man rush, Smith took his time and converted a third-and-13 with a 23-yard completion to Jeremy Kerley.
But then Geno committed his second turnover of the game on a scramble at the end of which LB Zach Brown chopped the ball out of Smith's grasp, with Verner scooping up his second takeaway of the game, tripping, but still making it to the Jets 26.
That led to Locker's 4-yard dart on a whip route to Washington for the TD and a 17-3 lead — the largest lead by the Titans against the Jets since they were the Houston Oilers and prevailed in the Meadowlands by 35-10 in 1996.
Nick Folk added a 47-yard field goal with 2:26 left in the half, and then the Jets got the ball back with 1:37 to play. But Smith gave it right back on a pass off target for Holmes but on target for Verner's third takeaway.
Instead of a late first-half score by the visitors, the exchange turned into a late TD from Locker on a fade into the end zone for Justin Hunter against CB Darrin Walls, who got the second start of his career for the injured Dee Milliner.
In the grand scheme of things though, it's only one loss, no matter how ugly it may have been.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint," G Willie Colon said. "It's not the playoffs where it's loser go home. We're 2-2, we just got our heads handed to us. We have to go back to the drawing board, do better, and give confidence to each other. So that's where we're at."
"I'll get better from this," Smith said. "I'm one of those guys that can put this in my memory bank, put it behind me, and find a way to get better from it."