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Jets win, but to some it feels like a loss

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, center,

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, center, shakes hands with Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, left, after an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. Credit: AP / Mark Zaleski

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dawan Landry said he was not nervous as he watched Delanie Walker head in his direction, with the end zone and one of the wackiest finishes in NFL history clearly in his sights.

"Not at all," the Jets safety said Sunday, 45 minutes after escorting Walker out of bounds at the 9-yard line to end a multi-lateral play on which the Titans nearly gained the 58 yards necessary to defeat the Jets on the final play.

"Last line of defense, just staying in my zone. Once he broke, I used the sideline as my friend and got him out of bounds."

Landry's calm belied the precariousness of the situation, but the situation nicely illustrated the strangeness of the afternoon at LP Field.

The Jets nearly found a way to blow a game in a creative new way and yet failed to do so -- on a day when the majority of their fans were hoping they'd do exactly that.

But the Titans were just awful enough -- and just moronic enough with untimely penalties -- to secure their eighth loss in a row in the first 16-11 game in NFL history.

That kept the Titans in a four-way tie for the worst record in the league at 2-12 and dealt a devastating blow to the 3-11 Jets' chances of landing the No. 1 overall pick and perhaps drafting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The disconnect between short- and long-term goals was just plain weird.

After the game, owner Woody Johnson greeted players at the locker room door with a wide smile, but maybe he was just being polite.

While coach Rex Ryan, quarterback Geno Smith and many other current Jets executives, coaches and players likely will not be around for 2015 and thus might as well savor a victory -- and a players' day off Monday -- the owner is not going anywhere. Just like the fans.

Reporters had no choice but to inquire about all this afterward, because asking awkward questions is what we do for a living. But Ryan, Smith and others were not big fans of the suggestion that they had upset their fans by winning.

"A Jets fan is a tough guy and wants to win, and that's what we gave our true Jets fans today," Ryan said.

He did allow that he would understand all the fuss about tanking "if it were Peyton Manning out there." But he added, "I don't think Peyton Manning is out there."

You can call that a mild shot at Mariota and/or Florida State's Jameis Winston, but he was just being honest.

Maybe history will recall the 2014 Jets doing a favor for the Jets of the future by not baiting them into using a top-five draft pick on a non-Peyton-esque quarterback.

Does Smith take the entire debate as a personal affront?

"Any fan who wants us to lose, I don't think that should be the idea of any fan, any fan base," he said. "But like I said, everyone has an opinion, and they have a right to it."

The Titans will continue their quest for the No. 1 pick when they face the similarly hapless Jaguars Thursday night in a nationally televised game while the Jets transfer from the ridiculous to the sublime by hosting the Patriots on Sunday.

The Jets have proved they can and will play for pride. But nine more yards for the Titans Sunday and they would have been playing for more than that in the last two weeks.

Afterward, Walker said he thought he would reach the end zone and lamented not having tried to take the ball up the middle. Mostly he was annoyed at yet another loss -- especially because of whom it came against.

"I guess they get worse, especially when you're losing to teams that I feel like we're better than," he said. "When you lose to teams like that, it's kind of disappointing."

That's what many Jets fans were feeling on a day when their guys beat a team like the Titans.

New York Sports