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November 19, 2006 -- The Post's Steve Serby sat down on Friday with the Jets' starting left guard:

Q: What was it like playing for Tom Coughlin at Boston College?

A: We had a lot more fun on Saturday night than anybody ever thought we would. When I went to BC and I turned down Notre Dame, people looked at me like I was crazy. There wasn't a whole bunch of time for fun during the week with Tom, but Saturday night when we'd come back from beating Notre Dame, we'd come back from beating Penn State ... that was enjoyable.

Q: How much of a taskmaster was he?

A: I can't confirm that this is 100 percent true, but legend has it that he allowed our backup quarterback to go be the best man in his brother's wedding, and came back and said, "I shouldn't have done that. You're gonna have to run."

Q: The 41-39 victory over Notre Dame?

A: That's my favorite memory from my college career. It might even lead to my most embarrassing memory with me screaming at an ESPN camera afterwards ... Ah, to be young and dumb again.

Q: Why did you scream at the ESPN camera on the field?

A: I felt slighted because our chances were being mocked; that's one I regret.

Q: What did you say?

A: I think I said, "Who's ESPN, who are they laughing at now?" Or something.

Q: Funniest moment in the huddle?

A: We had a lot of moments in Arizona, believe it or not, watching the fights in the stands when the Raiders fans would come in and start picking fights with the Cardinals fans.

Q: Funniest moment in a Jet huddle?

A: One night, Kevin Mawae was miked and we all knew, so we were all throwing some off-color humor at him trying to see what would make the final cut and what wouldn't.

Q: One story that sums up Eric Mangini?

A: We were in training camp and before we started the rookie show, Eric in his usual deadpan, started asking questions about powerful birds, his nickname being, of course, The Penguin. And he does this skit and they have some outtakes from The March of the Penguins ... it was really funny. The thing about Eric is that he's a tremendous football coach and he's very detail-oriented, but he's not a robot. To me, that kinda defines who he is ... just being real serious, all of a sudden changing lanes a little bit and then going on and doing this thing and poking a little bit of fun at himself.

Q: Why is his nickname The Penguin?

A: I think it has to go with the body type, the body shape (chuckles) ... always wearing that black sweatjacket.

Q: IRS audit, or dinner with Dennis Green?

A: (Chuckles) Do I have to be civil at the dinner with Dennis Green? I think I would choose the dinner only because it would be over in a couple of hours and those audits seem to be never-ending.

Q: Most bitter professional defeat?

A: The one that sticks out, ironically enough, is (Vinny Testaverde's) phantom touchdown here eight years ago (against Kendall's Seahawks).

Q: Your All-Opponent team?

A: John Parrella and Chester McGlockton at tackle; (Richard) Seymour and Trevor Pryce at end; Junior (Seau); DT (Derrick Thomas); (Bill) Romanowski.

Q: Your former Cardinal teammate Pat Tillman?

A: I just know that we're a lot poorer off because we lost him.

Q: What made him unique?

A: The thing that sticks out to me the most about Tilly is that he had both strong opinions and an open mind. The thing about Pat - and I only spent the one season with him - but we seemed to sit near each other on the bus when we traveled quite a bit, so very rarely was the conversation ever about football.

Q: Best piece of advice your father gave you?

A: Considering my father was a cop in the city of Quincy (Mass.) and my father's bigger than I am, "Don't get in trouble in my town" was probably the best one for me.

Q: If I were NFL commissioner I would ... ?

A: Lighten up on the celebration fines.

Q: How is the NFL different now from when you entered the league in 1996?

A: I think there's a lot more parity. The cliche "On Any Given Sunday" I guess has been true, but I think there are more upsets now.

Q: Favorite childhood memory?

A: Probably the Christmas morning I woke up, and Santa brought me a bike.

Q: Idols?

A: I was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan growing up, so Randy White, Roger Staubach ...

Q: If you weren't a football player what would you have been?

A: I don't know; honestly I've always felt in the back of my mind that this was what I was gonna do. Even when I was halfway through my junior year in high school and I wasn't a starter on my varsity team, and I was a week or two away from pulling the plug, I always felt like all I had to do was get my chance.

Q: What stopped you from quitting?

A: My closest friends were starting on the varsity team, and the coaching staff wouldn't play me. It was embarrassing to me on Monday afternoons that all my friends, the guys who were playing varsity on Saturday, would come down and watch the JV game on Monday. I guess luckily for me, we started 2-2 that year, which was an aberration for our high school, and the coaches basically sent it back to that training-camp mentality and said no job is safe, and they had a competition. I went from being ready to walk away to being by the end of my junior year a solid I-AA prospect, borderline I-A prospect.

Q: How did you propose to your wife?

A: We were at dinner, Daniel's steakhouse in Bellevue, Wash.; dessert came and I got a knee and asked her if she'd marry me and had a ring ...

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: Jesus, Moses, Mohammed. Be nice to sit down with the three guys who started it all and see how it all got so screwed up (smiles).

Q: Why don't offensive linemen have groupies?

A: Look at us.

Q: Pet peeve?

A: People that drive in the left lane with their left signal on.

Q: Worst habit?

A: Interrupting people.

Q: What will you do after football?

A: I do not know, that is why I keep playing.

Q: Dirtiest player?

A: Bill Romanowski.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: "Caddyshack."

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Kevin Costner.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Anything parmigiana.

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November 19, 2006 -- The Jets, unlike the Giants last Sunday night, are on full alert for the Bears' Devin Hester.

Hester, who leads the NFC with a 13.1-yard punt return average and has returned two for TDs, might break one on the Jets, but they won't be surprised if he does. Several Jets who are on coverage teams called Hester the best in the game.

"He's very dangerous," B.J. Askew said. "Dangerous. That's the word for him. He's a guy we need to account for. He is at the top of the list. The guy has got it: shiftiness, speed, power. He's got it all."

Brad Smith said, "He can fly. He's a very fast guy. He has a little bit of everything; he's fast and he makes people miss and he breaks tackles. We need everyone to get to the ball. He can change the game."

Hester changed the game against the Giants when he returned Jay Feely's failed field goal attempt a record 108 yards for a touchdown in the second half, turning a close game into a blowout.

"Every time he gets the ball, he's got a chance to score," Eric Mangini said. "They make people punt more than anybody else in the league, so he gets a lot of opportunities."

The Jets, who allow an average of 7.2 yards per punt return, are seventh in the NFL in punt coverage.

The Bears allow an average of 11.2 yards per punt return. Seven teams in the league allow more per return, which might have Jets returner Tim Dwight licking his chops.

"We've faced some pretty good punt returners," Mangini said. "Kevin [Faulk from the Patriots] was third in the league last week. Each week there are usually one or two explosive guys on special teams that you have to deal with.

"It's so important to have the lane discipline as you go down to cover guys like that, especially when they can change direction as quickly as [Hester] can, and the explosive speed, the crack isn't that big. If you widen it up, you're probably going to get hurt."


The nickname "Penguin" Jets players have given Mangini has taken on a life of its own. He continually receives penguin paraphernalia in the mail.

"I got another penguin the other day," the coach said. "I guess there's a new movie out. Someone was nice enough to send me the dancing star of the penguin movie. I got a new penguin book a couple weeks ago and a penguin figurine. I think it's hilarious. They are an impressive bird."

Today, the Jets will conduct their seventh annual "Jets Military Appreciation Day." Secretary Michael Wynne, the highest-ranking member of the Air Force, will serve as honorary captain and will be present for the coin toss. Formations will represent each military branch during the pregame festivities. The Color Guard will be represented by a combined unit of the Air Force and the Marines.

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BIG-GAME HUNTERS: As much as Chad

Pennington and the Jets are avoiding

saying the "P" word, they would be in

good position for the playoffs if they

beat the Bears today.

November 19, 2006 -- A win over the favored Bears today at Giants Stadium and Jets fans might as well start sending their checks in for playoff tickets.

True, Eric Mangini would cringe at the thought - and, of course, the mere use of the dreaded "P" word - but we don't work for the Jets and Mangini. We deal in reality.

The fact is the 5-4 Jets are coming off a potential landmark victory in the Mangini era in the form of their 17-14 win over the Patriots last Sunday in Foxboro, and their confidence is at a season high.

Could that translate into a victory over the 8-1 Bears, who appear to be the most complete team in the NFL?

Why not?

The Jets have had a distinct quiet confidence about them this week.

While there's been a healthy respect for the Bears from everyone in the Jets locker room, there also has been a clear difference in the way the Jets are approaching this game publicly compared to the way the Giants did for the Bears a week ago.

While some trash talk emanated from the Giants locker room about the Bears being overrated and such, you haven't heard a peep out of the Jets - on or off the record - to disparage the Bears this week.

"I saw some of the things that were said last week," Jets tight end Chris Baker said, referring to Giants receiver Plaxico Burress. "I went to school with 'Plax' [at Michigan State] and I know how he is. That's not really what we're looking for here. That's not what Coach Mangini is looking for. He's done a good job of keeping us focused. We've got to take care of our business.

"Talking [trash] doesn't do anything but sell papers and create hype. That's not the personality of our team. We just came off a big rivalry game against New England and we haven't had that, so we wouldn't really get into that with another team from another conference. If we didn't do it with New England, we wouldn't do it with anyone."

The thing about the even-keel Jets is this: They don't view themselves - nor have they viewed themselves - as the team that finished 4-12 last season. Asked if he was surprised the Jets are in the thick of a playoff race nine games into the season, Chad Pennington said, "I'm not surprised. Our core guys that have been here for three or four years, including myself, we've experienced success. We've been in the playoff hunt. We know what that's like.

"And our expectations - no matter what the outside expectations were coming into the season - never changed. You look [at] Jonathan Vilma, Eric Barton, Pete Kendall, those guys, they have high expectations of themselves and football is important to them.

"As veterans, we have that experience, we need to set the tempo and set the tone for the rest of our team and let these guys know that, hey, this is not a rebuilding year; this is not a year where we're just going to rest on our laurels and try to win a few games. We want to be in the playoff hunt every year. You never know when that opportunity is going to come, and you can't just waste an opportunity or let an opportunity slip by."

The opportunity the Jets face today is a significant one, because each of their final six opponents after the Bears currently has a losing record. That's not to say the Jets are going to win all of them, but consecutive wins over the Patriots and Bears to get to 7-5 with six to play would put them in a rather enviable position - not to mention the confidence that would come with another win over an elite team.

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Like Bears' 2nd home


November 19, 2006

The Bears are 6-1 at Giants Stadium in the regular season and 5-2 in their last seven games at Soldier Field, counting playoffs. So much for home-field advantage.

Will playing at Giants Stadium two weeks in a row against the Giants and Jets help them?

As coach Lovie Smith said, they will know where the visitors' locker room is.

Why does that help so much?

Think about it. If you don't know where the locker room is, you have to ask. It can become a distraction.

Are the Jets as good as the Giants?

According to their injury report, probably better. The Giants were a depleted group last week.

Are the Jets as good as the Patriots?

They beat them in Foxboro, something the Bears would like to do next week, so maybe the Jets will turn out to be the toughest test on the three-game trip.

Who are these guys, anyway?

They have two rookie first-round draft choices starting on the offensive line in left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold and four first-round draft choices on their front seven on defense--linemen Shaun Ellis, Dewayne Robertson and Bryan Thomas and linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

Like we said, who are these guys?

They're really pretty good, but you don't hear much about them because they play in New York.

Is their coach only 35 years old?

It's true, but what people forget is that Eric Mangini had more head-coaching experience than many of his counterparts, including Lovie Smith. He was head coach of the Kew Colts of the Australian League in 1992, when he was 22.

How did that help him?

He found his punter, Ben Graham, who has a strange and effective way of kicking.

How so?

Mangini tried him out in a cow paddock in 1997, but Graham didn't sign until last year.

No, what's so strange about his punting?

He kicks it so that it takes funny bounces, away from Devin Hester.

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Road worriers praise Jets

By John Mullin

Tribune staff reporter

November 19, 2006

Don't believe any of it. The Bears don't.

They don't care that the New York Jets are 5-4 despite being outscored on the season. And they don't care that the Jets rank 25th in the NFL in total offense and an even weaker 31st in total defense.

They see a team that has won three of its last four, including a road upset of New England last weekend and a three-point loss to undefeated Indianapolis. The Bears see a quarterback in Chad Pennington who ranks third in the NFL in third-down passing and completes nearly 63 percent of his passes.

"I've seen a lot of their games," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "We watched them play the Colts, and they should have won that game. There are a couple of other games they should have won as well. They've had a great season, and they're better than their stats on defense."

The Bears are 4-0 on the road but are trying to reverse a dangerous trend. Since opening day at Green Bay, the Bears have not led at the end of a first quarter on the road and have not scored first.

Falling behind is a concern, and the Bears know it. They are 4-0 this season when opponents score first, but they needed late heroics to overcome deficits at Minnesota and Arizona and are 12-12 under coach Lovie Smith when giving up a game's first points.

"It's hard to win in the NFL, period, especially on the road," Smith said. "Normally, you're not going to have a big lead on the road. The home team almost always makes a run, no matter what."



Bears--8-1, 1st in NFC North, Jets--5-4, 2nd in AFC East (NFL rank)



BEARS: 105.8 (19th)

JETS: 112.6 (15th)


BEARS: 227.1 (10th)

JETS: 179.2 (23rd)


BEARS: 332.9 (13th)

JETS: 291.8 (25th)



BEARS: 98.3 (T-10th)

JETS: 143.0 (28th)


BEARS: 152.1 (1st)

JETS: 218.1 (21st)


BEARS: 250.4 (1st)

JETS: 361.1 (31st)


Mike Downey

To get to Chad Pennington, the Bears must get past 312-pound rookie tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the best player in NFL history named D'Brickashaw. I'm not convinced they will. Alex Brown is the monster of the Meadowlands, with six sacks in two games there, but the Bears' defense has been shredded for 51 points in two weeks. Ronnie Brown and Tiki Barber ran the ball down their throats. Let me be the first since Joe Willie Namath to guarantee a Jets victory.


David Haugh

The Jets will scheme their way into staying close for a half, but eventually the Bears' offensive line will wear down the league's second-worst defense. Expect more steadiness from Rex Grossman and a big day for tight end Desmond Clark, the key to finding holes against a blitz-happy Jets pass defense. Victory No. 9 comes the old-fashioned way: The Bears earn it against an overachieving AFC team playing at home.


Melissa Isaacson

The Meadowlands doesn't seem nearly as fearsome after last week. The Bears could be running into a Jets team with a bit of a hangover after last week's emotional victory over New England. The Bears have allowed 100-yard rushing games to opponents in their last three games, but Thomas Jones may have hit his stride.


Fred Mitchell

Until Rex Grossman proves he can handle the pressure of an all-out blitz, teams such as the Jets likely will bring the heat early and often. It looks like an opportunity for Thomas Jones to come through with another 100-yard rushing game and for the defense to create turnovers. The Jets have given up 207 points to the Bears' 120.


Rick Morrissey

This isn't going to be a picnic for the Bears, who have tried their best not to look ahead to next week's Patriots game. The Jets have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL, and the Bears would do well to remember how difficult the last month has been. They're not good enough to roll over every team they play. Their 8-1 record is a story of mood swings. They had better come out angry Sunday . . . or else.


John Mullin

The Jets might be better than their stats, but they aren't better than the Bears. Barring turnovers, the Bears could win big. New York will run at the defense and run at Rex Grossman but will have trouble getting back to the emotional high of the New England win.


Don Pierson

Rex Grossman will have to break his pattern of good game, bad game, good game, bad game. He outplayed Eli Manning last week and has another challenging matchup against Chad Pennington. The Jets are unimpressive statistically but are improving and responding for first-year coach Eric Mangini. They think next year is already here.


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Bears comfortable on road

By Andrew Gross

The Journal News

(Original Publication: November 19, 2006)

The team stayed at a different hotel, an availability issue that didn't bother Bears coach Lovie Smith in the least, since he insists he's not superstitious. In everything else, however, he's hoping for a replay of last week.

The Jets (5-4) host the Bears (8-1) today at the Meadowlands at 1 as Chicago becomes the first team since the Redskins in 1999 and the third team ever to play the Giants and Jets in successive weeks at Giants Stadium.

The Bears won the first game of their doubleheader 38-20 Sunday night over the Giants.

"It's kind of an advantage," Bears quarterback Rex Grossman said. "If you're going to have two road games back-to-back, you might as well have them in the same stadium. It's kind of cool that we're used to it and it's fresh in our minds."

Freshest in everybody else's minds is Devin Hester's record 108-yard return of Jay Feely's missed 52-yard field goal, a touchdown that broke open last week's game.

But when it comes to the Bears, the Jets, who are coming off a 17-14 win at New England that put them a game back of the Patriots in the AFC East, have multiple things to worry about, not just their special-teams play.

The Bears' defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, the offense has scored at least 37 points in four of its last five victories. And as Hester proved, opponents need to think twice before attempting a long field goal.

Plus, the Bears are leading the NFL, having scored 119 points off turnovers, or 43.8 percent of their 272 points. Their 27 takeaways are also the most in the league.

"They haven't played a game where they haven't caused at least multiple turnovers," Jets quarterback Chad Pennington said. "Normally, when you look at a defense, you look at it from a defensive perspective. But they actually have an offensive mentality in that they believe they can score points and they believe they can cause a lot of opportunities for their offense and give their offense a short field."

Yet the Bears have allowed an opposing running back to gain 100 yards in three straight games - the Giants' Tiki Barber (141), the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown (157) when Miami handed the Bears their only loss, 31-13 on Nov. 5, and the 49ers' Frank Gore (111).

The Jets' Kevan Barlow rushed for a team-high 75 yards at New England, and rookie Leon Washington has two 100-yard games this season.

"They are capable of stopping the run at any time, at any point," Washington said. "At the same time, we're not focused on that. We're focused on the things that we need to do to win the game."

Defensively, that will likely mean putting pressure on Grossman. It worked against the Patriots and in the second half of the Jets' 20-13 loss at Cleveland prior to the bye week. Using shifting fronts and multiple blitz packages, the Jets harried Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into a rare home loss.

And even if they hadn't shown so much blitz against New England, Smith said he would expect it this week.

"That seems to be the catchy thing that most people say: that you should bring pressure against the Chicago Bears," Smith said. "Every game we've gotten pressure, so we'll assume that we'll continue to get it."

Like Pennington, who is healthy this season after suffering rotator-cuff injuries in successive years, Grossman has finally been able to stay on the field.

The Bears' first-round pick in 2003 out of Florida won the starting job at the end of his rookie season, but tore an ACL three games into 2004, then broke his ankle in training camp and missed the first 13 games last season.

But this season, he's completed 271 of 485 attempts for 2,095 yards, 17 touchdowns - second in the NFL - and 11 interceptions. He's also been sacked 11 times.

"He's more of a guy that tries to make the play," Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "I don't know if he gets rattled or not, but he feels that he can get the ball in there. I really just notice a guy trying to make plays like Brett Favre. He'll have four touchdowns one game, four picks the next."

He had three touchdown passes and one interception against the Giants. Grossman wouldn't mind a repeat of that performance.

But the Bears should be forewarned: neither the '99 Redskins nor the '93 Colts won both of their back-to-back games at the Meadowlands.

"We just looked at them separately," Smith said. "You're familiar with your surroundings. Beyond that, it's just a separate road game."

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Setting sights on Bears

Sunday, November 19, 2006



EAST RUTHERFORD -- When the NFL schedule was revealed in April, Gang Green critics and fanatics alike saw an Everest rising from the middle of the Jets' schedule:

Game 9 -- at New England.

Game 10 -- vs. Chicago.

The fanatics thought the twin peaks might wind up being the death knell for a surprise playoff appearance. The critics thought that daily double, along with the earlier combo of Indianapolis-Jacksonville, would finish them off before Eric Mangini's first season reached December.

Yet here we are between peaks. The Jets have declined the oxygen. And they're striding toward the summit of Bear Mountain.

"I think it's a great challenge for us," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said of today's game, coming on the heels of their 17-14 road upset of the Patriots.

"We know the Bears are a great team. That's what makes it fun, competing against great teams. We know they can make plays -- they're going to make plays. That's not the issue.

"The issue is to go out and win."

The Jets are respectful of the threat Chicago poses. But just like Jason Taylor -- well, maybe a little less impatiently than the Miami defensive end, who labeled them "the Almighty Bears" days before the Dolphins scored their equally unlikely 31-13 upset at Soldier Field two weeks ago -- they have a growing belief in their own abilities.

"I'm not surprised," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "Our core guys who have been here for three or four years, including myself, we've experienced success. We've been in the playoff hunt. We know what that's like. And our expectations, no matter what the outside expectations were coming into the season, never changed."

That's about as close as any Jet will come to acknowledging the existence of the NFL postseason. But with Bear week upon them, it was OK for Pennington to suggest that scaling 6½-point-favorite Chicago after toppling 10½-point-favorite New England was doable.

"If you want to be in the playoff hunt, you can't keep trading a win for a loss," he said. "You've got to eventually put some winning streaks together."

But a streak that includes New England and Chicago? Let's face facts.

The Bears' defense is No. 1 in the NFL, overall and vs. the pass, first in third-down defense (a Pennington specialty). They are first in takeaways -- never fewer than two a game, 27 in all -- and first in forced fumbles (16).

And combining two touchdowns from that defense, three by punt- and missed-field-goal maven Devin Hester, and their usually efficient offense directed by Rex Grossman, dah Bears are No. 1 in scoring margin, mauling opponents by 17 points a game.

"You throw on the Chicago tape, it's like smelling salts," said Mangini, the boxing and extreme-fighting aficionado. "Put on any tape you want, any game you want, any phase you want. You see how difficult they are across the board, how well-coached they are, how physical they are."

But these Jets aren't going in wishing, hoping, praying for Upset No. 2. They have a new plan, and the confidence from New England that the previous plan worked just right.

If the offense can run with Kevan Barlow and Leon Washington at the Chicago defense's Achilles' heel ... if the Jets blitz Grossman into mistakes and turnovers as it did "Super" Tom Brady ... if Justin Miller out-returns Hester ... this peak, too, can be climbed.

"Obviously, you have to look at what they've done," guard Pete Kendall said. "They've won eight games in nine tries -- that's an outstanding record. We have a lot of respect for them as a team for what they've done to this point. You can't go out there expecting wild success.

"But we're formulating a plan, working on it and trying to execute it to allow us to score one more point than their team."

And if the Jets don't, they've still regained that swagger that they had in 2004 and lost last season.

As Vilma put it, about his defense although he could be speaking for the Jets' entire expedition, "Yeah, definitely, things are on the up-and-up."

E-mail: lange@northjersey.com

* * *

Jets (5-4) vs. Bears (8-1)

Giants Stadium, East Rutherford

Today, 1 o'clock

TV: Ch. 5

Radio: WABC-AM 770, ESPN-AM 1050

Line: Bears by 6½

What's at stake

Jets: They want their second straight stunning upset to remain right behind New England in the AFC East and in the thick of the AFC wild-card race. They're seeking to go two games over .500 for the first time since 2004.

Bears: They want to maintain their two-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff grid. They also want to stay on their roll in their home away from home, where they beat the Giants last week to improve to 6-1 in the Meadowlands.

Key matchups

Jets RB Kevan Barlow vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher

Barlow muscled his way to his most effective game as a Jet vs. the Patriots. Urlacher is the uber-backer for a brawny defense that nevertheless has allowed 100-yard rushers in its past three games and could be vulnerable to a Barlow-Leon Washington one-two punch.

Jets LBs Victor Hobson and Eric Barton vs. Bears QB Rex Grossman

The Jets' new-found blitz hammered Tom Brady. Hobson and Barton, if they can avoid overexuberant penalties, could lead a similar effort vs. Grossman, whose three most ineffective games, producing nine interceptions, have come under game-long pressure.

How they'll win

Jets: They run well to set up Chad Pennington's play-action. Grossman is harassed into mediocrity. Ben Graham's punts and Justin Miller's kickoff returns negate Devin Hester's punt returns. They hold the fort in the red zone.

Bears: RB Thomas Jones pounds the Jets on first down. The defense slams the door on Pennington on third down. They match their NFL-leading average with three takeaways. Quick TDs, one on a return, take the crowd out of the equation.

-- Randy Lange

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Chicago at N.Y. Jets NFL.com wire reports

Matchup Breakdown | Game Notes

(Nov. 15, 2006) -- The surroundings will be familiar, but there will be far less hype when the Chicago Bears return to Giants Stadium to take on the New York Jets.

Chicago (8-1) faced the New York Giants last weekend at Giants Stadium. Coach Lovie Smith has the positive momentum of already having won there, but admits there is still an unknown of whether it is an advantage.

"We know how to win there; we know that for a fact," coach Lovie Smith said. "But I don't know what advantage it will be for us."

Quarterback Rex Grossman added: "It's kind of an advantage," he told the Jets' website. "If you're going to have two road games back-to-back, you might as well have them in the same stadium."

The Bears overcame a miserable start, erasing a 10-point first-half deficit en route to a 38-20 win. Grossman, who has struggled on the road, finished 18 of 30 for 246 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while Devin Hester returned a missed field goal 108 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win and give the Bears a two-game lead over the Giants for the best record in the NFC.

"When I caught the ball, I just slowed it down. I wanted to see what they were doing. The majority of them were walking off the field," Hester said of his NFL record-tying return.

"The way guys went down the field and crushed people, I was like, 'Whoa, I didn't know that happened,"' Hester said. "I give all the credit to my teammates. They're the guys who should be in front of the cameras right now."

The Bears were pleased to see Grossman rebound from his terrible performance against Miami, which forced him into four turnovers and sacked him three times. Grossman had only two TD passes in his previous three road games, and Jets defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson knows he and his teammates will have to harrass Grossman.

"You can't let Grossman get comfortable," Robertson said. "He's a great player, man, and great players do great things and make great plays."

The Bears would like to have wide receiver Bernard Berrian back after he missed the Giants game due to a rib injury. Smith told newyorkjets.com that Berrian, one of Chicago's biggest playmakers, was looking better and had practiced, but was questionable for this weekend.

If he's not ready, Muhsin Muhammad may have to deliver another big game after totaling seven receptions for a season-high 123 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's win.

"Moose had a great game," Grossman said. "He made good plays and ran great routes and really stepped it up. It was great to see him come out there and have the kind of game he had."

While Grossman and the offense regrouped, the Bears defense -- specifically against the run -- is still struggling. The Bears have given up 100-plus rushing yards in the last three games -- including 150 to the Giants -- after allowing opponents to reach 100 just once in the team's first six games.

"We played the run well at times, but we had those big breakouts," Smith said.

Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher had a strong game despite playing through a sprained big toe, totaling eight tackles.

"Before the game it was in the back of my mind," Urlacher said, "but it feels good and I was able to run around and do somethings out there."


Chad Pennington is keeping

his team in the playoff chase.

The Jets (5-4) are less than excited to see Urlacher returning to form. Quarterback Chad Pennington said it will be critical for the team to find a way to slow down Chicago's defense if they want to have a chance.

"Normally, when you look at a defense, you look at it from a defensive perspective," he said. "But they actually have an offensive mentality in that they believe they can score points and that they believe they can cause a lot of opportunities for their offense."

New York is trying to carry the momentum from a 17-14 win at division rival New England last week. Pennington was 22 of 33 for 168 yards and a touchdown, while Kevan Barlow had 75 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries to help the team rebound from a tough loss to the Cleveland Browns prior to its bye week.

Pennington ran an efficent offense, opting for short, accurate passes on a rain-soaked field.

"We knew we had to have precise execution and, in the meantime, play a great defense," because of the muddy field and slippery ball, said Pennington, who missed 22 games over the previous three years with shoulder and wrist problems.

The Jets have won three of their last four and their latest win may have put them back in the playoff hunt. New York trails New England by one game in the AFC East, but the team is trying not the think about a possible postseason appearance.

"It is still way too early; we have seven games left," veteran guard Pete Kendall said. "There are a lot of things beyond our control at this point. If we needed somebody to grab our attention, we certainly got it. The Chicago Bears are 8-1, they may very well be the best team in football."

This is the first time the teams have met since a 20-13 win at Soldier Field in 2002. The Bears last win against the Jets at Giants Stadium came in 1994.

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Chicago Bears

Play in NY for 2nd week in row. Aim for 1st 9-1 start since 1990 when club won division. Under head coach LOVIE SMITH, Bears have won 18 of past 21. Team has outscored opponents 272-120. ... QB REX GROSSMAN has won 12 of 1st 16 career starts. Bears are 10-1 (.909) when Grossman has TD pass. ... In past 13 when RB THOMAS JONES has more than 20 attempts, club is 13-0. Jones has 1,214 yards & 8 TDs in those 13. Jones has 4 100-yard games in past 6 vs. AFC. ... WR MUHSIN MUHAMMAD aims for 4th in row with TD. WR BERNARD BERRIAN averages 37.0 yards per TD catch (6 TDs, 222 yards), incl. 4 for 40+ yards. WR MARK BRADLEY recorded 1st career TD reception (29 yards) last week. ... Defense has allowed 10 points-or-less in 10 of past 17. LB BRIAN URLACHER has 19 tackles in 2 meetings. DE MARK ANDERSON leads rookies with 7.5 sacks & has 3 FFs. Rookie CB-PR DEVIN HESTER leads NFC with 13.1 PR avg. & has NFL-best 2 PR-TDs. Tied NFL record (CB NATHAN VASHER) for longest play in history with 108-yard return of missed FG last week.

dot_clear.gifNew York Jets

Club has won 3 of past 4. ... In 11 career Nov. starts, QB CHAD PENNINGTON is 8-3 (.727), completing 202 of 306 passes (66.0 pct.) for 2,330 yds w/ 21 TDs vs. 6 INTs for 103.5 passer rating. ... RB KEVAN BARLOW has rushed for 11 1st downs in past 3 games vs. Chi (w/ SF). Last wk at NE, Barlow reached 1st down on 6 of his 17 (35.3 pct.) carries. ... WR LAVERANUES COLES tied for 4th in league w/ 15 3rd-down receptions for 1st downs. Among AFC WRs, Coles (3) is tied for most catches of 40+ yds. WR JERRICHO COTCHERY leads team w/ 4 TD catches & has reached 1st down on 29 of 41 (70.7 pct.) receptions on season. TE CHRIS BAKER has scored 5 of 7 career TDs on plays inside opponents

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