EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Running back Chris Ivory, the youngest member of the New York Jets' four-pronged offensive attack, looked surprised late Sunday afternoon when he was told neither quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, an 11-year veteran, nor wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a 10-year veteran, has ever made the NFL playoffs.
"They haven't been to the playoffs?" Ivory said. "I didn't know that."
Fitzpatrick and Marshall certainly know it. And if it's up to them, the rest of their teammates will know the value of the opportunity ahead of the Jets over the final three weeks of the season.
Fitzpatrick threw three first-half touchdown passes Sunday afternoon, including a 69-yarder to Marshall off a quick snap, and Ivory rushed for 101 yards as the Jets remained in the thick of the AFC wild card race by cruising to a 30-8 win over the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium.
"This is why we play the game - for the games we're playing right now," said Fitzpatrick, who finished 21-of-36 for 263 yards and no interceptions. "This is what all the work is for. Some guys don't understand it (after) college, big bowl games and they won every game. But we've got a great opportunity in front of us."
The Jets (8-5) won their third in a row - their first three-game winning streak since Nov. 27-Dec. 11, 2011 - to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the two AFC wild card spots. The Chiefs and Jets are technically the wild cards at the moment due to the conference record tiebreaker.
"There are some older guys," Fitzpatrick said with a sly grin crawling on to his face, "that really understand how unique and what a great opportunity this is."
With that in mind, the Jets produced their best effort of the season and avoided falling for a possible trap game against the woebegone Titans (3-10), who were eliminated from playoff contention for the seventh straight season.
"We have a lot of young guys and this is the week where all the veterans really step(ped) up and put their foot on the pedal and pushed everybody," Marshall said.
The Jets led 27-0 after a first half in which they scored on five of six possessions - and missed a field goal on the other one - while outgaining the Titans 324-72. It was the Jets' largest halftime lead since they led the Cincinnati Bengals 27-0 in the 2009 season finale.
"We had yet to start fast this year and jump out to a lead and play from ahead," head coach Todd Bowles said of the Jets, who were outscored 140-121 in the first half of their first 12 games. "We did a good job. We ran the ball, we threw the ball and they executed. They came out fresh and ready to go."
Fitzpatrick capped a game-opening 80-yard drive by finding wide-open wide receiver Eric Decker (seven catches for 74 yards) in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Kicker Randy Bullock missed a 53-yard field goal on the Jets' next series but capped the next two drives with field goals of 47 yards and 27 yards. The Jets then extended the lead to 20-0 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to running back Bilal Powell, who broke four tackles on his way to the end zone.
The Titans recorded the second of their four first-half first downs on the subsequent possession, but following a punt, Fitzpatrick caught the Titans napping with a quick snap and a quick pass to Marshall, who was uncovered in the flat. Marshall raced up the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown reception with 1:35 left in the half.
Fitzpatrick credited Marshall with recognizing the coverage, or lack thereof, and center Nick Mangold for figuring out what Fitzpatrick and Marshall wanted to do.
"It was a shotgun play, set up the count, got under center, so it could have been a disaster before it started with Nick still snapping it as a shotgun," Fitzpatrick said. "He realized what was going on as well."
For Titans interim head coach Mike Mularkey, meanwhile, the busted play signified a game and a season gone south.
"Well, that was not good," Mularkey said in opening his postgame press conference. "The first half was a good example of (if) you play poorly in all three phases, you're going to have a hard time against a good football team, let alone anybody in this league."
The only bit of suspense left was whether or not the Jets would record the 12th shutout in team history. But the Titans got on the board with 4:09 left in the third quarter on a 41-yard touchdown pass from running back Antonio Andrews to quarterback Marcus Mariota, who lined up wide right and raced past Jets safety Calvin Pryor after Pryor slipped.
"It was a good throw today," Mularkey said of Andrews' pass. "It was a better throw than he threw during the week."
Mariota (21-of-39 for 274 yards with a two-point conversion pass to running back Dexter McCluster) was sacked five times, including three times by Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
NOTES: Jets CB Darrelle Revis returned to action after missing two games with a concussion. ... Jets WR Jeremy Kerley (calf) and WR Devin Smith (knee) were each injured in the second half. ... Titans interim head coach Mike Mularkey faced the Jets for the seventh time as a head coach. He is 2-5 against the Jets with the Titans, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. ... The Titans have lost at least 10 games in consecutive seasons for only the second time since moving to Tennessee in 1997. The Titans also lost at least 10 games in 2004 and 2005.