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Jets notebook

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fine-tuning the blitz

The Jets' defense seems to have matured so that coordinator Bob Sutton can call off the blitz hounds a bit and still execute an effective game plan.

"You definitely want to mix it in," safety Kerry Rhodes said of the pressure against Houston's David Carr on Sunday in the Jets' 26-11 win. "The big thing is we're having fun on defense now. It looked like it in the game where we were able to play our base and still get them off the field a lot."

In fact, Rhodes lured Carr into throwing that key third-quarter interception by making the Texans' QB think he was coming, then sprinting into position to snare the underthrown pass for Andre Johnson.

The Jets blitzed 12 times or on 20.7 percent of Houston's pass plays, and sent "max pressure" only once. In their three previous games, they blitzed on 69 percent of their pass plays and sent seven or eight men 12 times.

McCareins chips in

The last time Justin McCareins made a tackle covering a kick was when he was a backup wide receiver with Tennessee. He hadn't done it since coming to the Jets in 2004 -- until Sunday, when he had one solo and one assist against the Texans' Dexter Wynn.

McCareins, who's been bumped down the wideout ladder behind Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and, even in some packages, Tim Dwight, approached special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff about contributing on specials.

"Justin seeks out the chance to play, does a great job in practice, goes in the game and has two tackles," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "That was an outstanding effort on his part, but also shows all the things we're looking for from our players."


The Jets have had a time change because of the NFL's flexible scheduling, with the Dec. 10 game against Buffalo being moved from a 1 p.m. kickoff to 4:15. ... Weather forecast for Sunday's game at Green Bay: 34 degrees and snow showers.

-- Randy Lange

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Chad shows his good side

Tuesday, November 28, 2006



HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Chad Pennington, making a post-shower cameo appearance in the Jets' locker room, was asked if he'd gotten any questions Monday about his job security.

"Nah, that was last week," he said with a laugh.

True, a week ago, Pennington was a different type of story, in equal parts because he and the Jets' offense were slumping and because Eric Mangini said, "Chad is the quarterback right now."

But Pennington showed how bogus that angle was as he masterfully came off the ropes during Sunday's 26-11 defeat of Houston.

The Jets' quarterback provided one of his better performances, one of his best halves and arguably the best drive of his pro career in leading his team back to victory lane -- all sandwiched around a scary episode of third-quarter breathlessness.

To think the first-year coach was about to make a rookie mistake by replacing Pennington with Patrick Ramsey or Kellen Clemens "right now," heading into the Texans, was ludicrous.

"Chad is the type of guy who's not going to be denied," Mangini said Monday. "That's how he approaches everything."

Pennington, who never follows one bad game with another, put the Chicago shutout in his rearview mirror with Sunday's effort, which included:

His first 200-yard passing game since he opened the season with those two 300-yarders, and his most accurate game (77.4 percent on 24-of-31 passing) since closing 2003 with 78.6 accuracy (22-of-28) in the loss at Miami.

A pinpoint second half in which he completed 14-of-15 for 159 yards, including his final eight passes after having the wind knocked out of him by Texans rookie DE Mario Williams.

That supreme third-quarter series on which he completed all five of his throws, each to a different receiver, for 89 yards and the 12-yard score to Laveranues Coles.

Toss in Pennington's overlooked fourth-and-1 keeper from the Jets' 39 on the fourth quarter's first play to sustain another scoring drive, and the three hard-count offside penalties he drew (two on Williams), giving him 17 for the season and ... you get the picture.

But the picture isn't complete without the intangibles. Linebacker Eric Barton recently was asked which person he admired most and chose Pennington because "I know what he's been through, all the work he's put in." No surprise that Barton was the first to greet Pennington after he regained his breath and left the field punching the air.

Running back Kevan Barlow was asked what he remembered about Pennington before his August trade from San Francisco.

"I saw this guy on TV who was always rowdied up, throwing bottles down. 'Who is this guy, man?' " Barlow said. "It was interesting to me to see this quarterback who's so competitive and emotional.

"Then I got here and got to know him as a person and now I see why he's so competitive. His presence is commanding. That's what you need in a quarterback to respect him."

Pennington could have only hoped for a little more respect from the Houston rookie who appeared to land hard on his surgical right shoulder, but actually did the most damage when his weight turned the QB's right forearm into a pressure point that jammed his solar plexus.

"I was testing the shoulder out all night long, after what I've been through, but it's fine," Pennington said. "What's the word? I think it's a confidence-builder, to take a lick like that."

And to have Pennington leading the offense can only build more confidence as the Jets continue their stretch run.

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Healthy report for Pennington



(Original publication: November 28, 2006)

HEMPSTEAD - Quarterback Chad Pennington tested his right shoulder all through the night, constantly checking to make sure no damage had been done when Texans rookie defensive end Mario Williams landed on him in the third quarter of the Jets' 26-11 win Sunday.

Pennington, who had his last two seasons marred by rotator-cuff injuries, even checked it as he played with his son, twirling his arm as he rolled on the floor.

Everything checked out fine.

"I think it's a confidence booster,'' Pennington said yesterday. "To take a lick like that and finish the game - that's what it is. It's a confidence builder.''

Pennington completed 24 of 31 passes for 286 yards with one touchdown, his best performance since Week 1. He also did not throw an interception for the first time since a 20-17 win over the Dolphins on Oct. 15.

"It was more a case of getting the wind knocked out of him as opposed to anything bigger than that,'' Jets coach Eric Mangini said.

Pennington reviewed film of Williams' hit, which left him moaning on the turf, as well as his fist-pumping, arm-waving exit from the field for just one play.

"(Jets linebacker) Jonathan Vilma said he was going to fine me,'' Pennington said. "Especially for just getting the breath knocked out of you.''

Players of the week: Mangini named Pennington the Jets' offensive player of the week, saying it was a close call over wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles, each of whom had 100-yard performances. Linebacker Victor Hobson (11 tackles) was the top defensive player, kicker Mike Nugent (four field goals, one tackle) earned special-teams honors and tight end Joe Kowalewski, an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse, was the practice player of the week.

No reward: Despite beating the Texans handily, the Jets' players were told they would not get a "Victory Monday" off yesterday because they needed to be more consistent. The players were given time off from meetings and meeting the media on the Mondays following their previous two victories, but the Jets lost each of their subsequent games.

Buffalo game switched: The Jets' home game against the Bills on Dec. 10 has been pushed back to 4:15 as part of the NFL's flexible scheduling. It's the first time the Jets have had a game time switched as part of the league's new format.

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Jets' runners remain grounded



(Original publication: November 28, 2006)

HEMPSTEAD - It's somewhat fitting that wide receiver Tim Dwight's 28-yard reverse two weeks ago stands as the Jets' longest run from scrimmage this season. The team's running back-by-committee approach with veteran Kevan Barlow, second-year pro Cedric Houston and rookie Leon Washington has certainly spread out the carries.

But the total output reached a low point in Sunday's 26-11 win over the Texans. The Jets (6-5) gained just 27 yards on 26 carries as Houston often played eight men on the line, daring the Jets to pass.

That can excuse some of the performance, but coach Eric Mangini did stress the need for a consistent running attack. Through Sunday's games, the Jets' rushing offense was 19th in the NFL, averaging 104.4 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry.

"That's the thing most running backs like is rhythm,'' said Houston, who missed five games earlier this season with an injured left knee and had 13 yards on 11 carries against Houston. "You've got three good guys in there, it's kind of hard to get in a rhythm. The coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) has certain stuff for all us guys. It's going pretty good for right now.''

Washington, who has the only two 100-yard games by a Jet this season, is used typically when the Jets want to run outside; he leads the team with 471 yards on 113 carries. Barlow, who gained 75 tough yards in the slop at New England on Nov. 12, has gotten most of the calls for the inside yards; he has 334 yards on 113 carries.

But Houston has taken carries from both since returning in the 10-0 loss to the Bears on Nov. 19. He has gained 122 yards on 36 rushes.

The running backs are given series on a predetermined basis.

"I think (the coaching staff) is happy with it,'' said Barlow, who rushed eight times for 5 yards Sunday. "They keep fresh legs in, and it's a different look for each back. It is what it is. It's worked for us since the beginning of the season. If it's not broke, don't fix it.''

Mangini said he's not looking to establish one featured back.

"Having complementary skill sets helps because it's different things that the defense has to prepare for,'' Mangini said. "What we need to do is collectively execute the plays better.''

All three committee members are saying the right things. But rare is the NFL running back who doesn't want the bulk of the carries.

And when things don't go as planned, as they didn't against the Texans, there's always the impulse to do more than asked.

"As a runner, as a competitor, you want to contribute to the team,'' said Washington, who was held to 17 yards on five carries by the Texans. "You want to do more to help the team win.''

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Lineman Jones

busted for DUI



Jets offensive lineman Adrian Jones was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with driving under the influence, sources said yesterday.

Jones, driving alone, was stopped by police in Nassau County, L.I., at approximately 4 a.m., a source said. He didn't participate in Saturday's team meeting and walk-through and was declared inactive for Sunday's game against the Texans.

Asked yesterday why Jones didn't dress for the game, coach Eric Mangini said it was "a coaching decision."

Jones was fined $20,000 by the team, a source said.

"I am deeply sorry for my actions and for putting myself before the team," Jones said in a statement. "I apologized to my family, my teammates and my coaches for my behavior. I used poor judgment and will be held accountable for it."

Jones will be subject to the NFL's substance-abuse program.

"We are extremely disappointed Adrian would put himself in this situation, and we take these allegations very seriously," the team said in a statement. "(The Jets) expect all players and personnel to conduct themselves with the highest regard for the welfare of our community. Adrian has apologized to his teammates, the organization and the fans, accepting full responsibility for his actions and the consequences that follow."

Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2004, started every game in 2005. He lost his job in training camp to Anthony Clement, but appeared in the first 10 games on special teams. As a freshman at Kansas, Jones was involved in a serious car crash that required a three-day stay in ICU with head injuries. There was no report of alcohol being involved; Jones said the car blew a tire and rolled twice.

CHAD OK: One day after being squashed by 293-pound defensive end Mario Williams, Chad Pennington said his twice-repaired throwing shoulder was fine. He got the wind knocked out of him, though it initially appeared to be a possible shoulder injury. He actually landed on his right forearm, which was pinned under his body and applied the force to his solar plexus.

That he emerged unscathed from such a big hit was "a confidence builder," Pennington said, adding that he spent part of Sunday night playing with his son and flexing his arm just to make sure everything was okay.

VERY SPECIAL: Former starting receiver Justin McCareins, whose opportunities have been limited, volunteered for special-teams duty last week and made two tackles on kickoff coverage against Houston. He and kicker Mike Nugent (four field goals) were recognized as the team's top special teams performers. Pennington and LB Victor Hobson captured the offensive and defensive honors, respectively. . . .The Dec. 10 game against the Bills, scheduled for 1 p.m., has been moved to 4:15

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Jets not rushing to change



It didn't seem possible in the dog days of training camp, but it has become a late-November reality: The Jets are a playoff contender.

At 6-5, with a favorable schedule, an improving defense and a recharged quarterback, they're in position for a serious wild-card push. The big question: Can they run well enough to make a run?

An inconsistent running game, that old bugaboo, reared its ugly head (or shall we say three heads?) in Sunday's 26-11 victory over the Texans. The Jets rushed 26 times for only 27 yards, casting a harsh light on Eric Mangini's three-man rotation at tailback.

With Kevan Barlow, Cedric Houston and Leon Washington sharing the workload for the second straight week, the Jets sputtered to their sixth-lowest rushing total since 1970. Chad Pennington carried the offense with 286 passing yards, but they're going to need some balance to win cold-weather games, starting this week in Green Bay.

Mangini defended his three-man system, an unorthodox method that sacrifices continuity for unpredictability. No one on the team has criticized the approach, but privately some seemed at a loss when trying to explain its rhyme and reason.

Mangini didn't sound like he's planning to change.

"It's not a function of one guy or another guy, one style or another style," he said. "They're complementary. Having complementary skill sets helps because it's different things the defense has to prepare for."

The Barlow-Washington tandem started to make noise around midseason, as Washington rushed for a career-high 129 yards against the Lions (Week 7) and Barlow followed with a season-high 76 yards against the Patriots (Week 10). But along came Houston, who was plucked out of mothballs and inserted into the rotation.

After missing five games with a knee injury, Houston has rushed 22 times in the last two games, compared to Washington's 18 and Barlow's 12. Against the Packers, who knows? The only certainty is that it won't be Curtis Martin, who is out for the season.

"I haven't complained about it," said Barlow, trying to be a good soldier. "We've won games with it. Unfortunately, we weren't able to run the ball like we wanted (against Houston), but we're correcting it."

Save for a 220-yard explosion against the defensively challenged Lions, the Jets have struggled over the last four games - a total of 340 yards on 112 attempts, an alarming 3.0 average.

Houston admitted it's "kind of hard" to find a rhythm, not knowing your role, but he added: "The way we do it, you don't get into a flow, you go with the flow."

The Jets attributed Sunday's embarrassing performance to the Texans' defensive strategy. They used eight-man fronts, leaving the receivers in single coverage. Clearly, they were more concerned with the running game than Pennington's arm. And Pennington made them pay, but it might not go that way against better teams.

Maybe they've become predictable. After all, Mangini designs his game plans to feature specific running plays for each back, although he claimed they're not revealing any tendencies.

"It would be hard because we've mixed the plays," he said, noting that Barlow ran a "flip" play - a outside run that usually goes to Washington.

The rotation calls for each back to play every other series, but it's not etched in stone. When the Jets call a running play out of their no-huddle, the last five people in the stadium to know the identity of the runner are the offensive linemen. Sometimes they don't know until they see him emerging from the pile.

"To be perfectly honest, I have no idea who the back is," said guard Pete Kendall, claiming the constant change doesn't affect chemistry. "Sometimes you can tell by the play call: 'Maybe this is a Leon play. Maybe this is a Kevan play. Maybe this is a Cedric play.' But nothing is for certain."

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'D' in comfort zone

Improving unit gains confidence and stops Texans without blitzes


Newsday Staff Writer

November 28, 2006

The Jets' "D" didn't always stand for defense. At one point this season, it stood for doubt. When the unit was floundering near the bottom of the NFL rankings and among the worst in nearly every category, there were slivers of uncertainty about the 3-4 scheme and its effectiveness with the current Jets personnel. The flight from Jacksonville after a 41-0 loss in October may have been the pinnacle of skepticism.

"Doubt is always going to come across your mind, but it's what you do with it [that matters]," Jets linebacker Victor Hobson said yesterday after a third consecutive staunch defensive effort that has gone a long way toward alleviating those doubts. "If you let it take over you, then it becomes a problem. If you look at it as an opportunity to work harder, then it doesn't hurt you."

Unlike earlier this season, the Jets are no longer being hurt by their defense. Since the bye in the first week of November, the Jets have allowed 11.7 points per game. That they are suddenly stopping teams from scoring is a month-long trend, but that they did it Sunday against the Texans without the gadgetry and trickery of secondary blitzes that worked so effectively against the Bears and Patriots was a clear statement about the team's comfort in the base scheme.

"That was big because that's where we've been struggling, just lining up and being base and trying to get all our fits together," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "For us to do that this game and not really come after them a lot ... it was good for us."

The Jets didn't blitz but certainly used the threat of it to their advantage. On Rhodes' interception, he was at the line of scrimmage feigning a pass rush and luring quarterback David Carr into thinking he would have one-on-one coverage on the outside. Rhodes peeled off, dropped back and was in position to make the pick.

Coordinator Bob Sutton called conservative games in September and October while the team adjusted to the new responsibilities. He started dialing up more blitzes in the fourth quarter of the Browns game Oct. 29 and maintained that up-tempo style since the bye.

"I think everybody, as you get more experience, you learn from mistakes, you learn from the things you've done well," coach Eric Mangini said of Sutton's progress as a first-year play-caller.

Sutton was unavailable for comment per team rules, but the players have voiced pleasure in being able to attack. They said their respect for Sutton has grown in recent weeks, as has his for the players.

"That all comes with execution," Hobson said. "We're out there and executing defenses more and that allows him to feel more and more comfortable and gives him the freedom to make different calls and let us loose."

The Jets are still near the bottom in overall defense, ranked 29th before last night and allowing 351.5 yards per game. Some of that is a remnant of the early struggles and some the result of the Texans' second-half passing that churned out yardage in a comeback attempt. The Jets are allowing 20.7 points a game, which is 14th, down from 24.1 at the bye and 26.4 after five games.

"You never want to be looked at as a defense that's underachieving because we know we have the talent," Hobson said. "We were looking at ourselves and we knew we could do better. That was our main focus, that we knew we could improve. My coaches in college used to say: If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."

The Jets' defense is getting better.

Notes&quotes: Mangini said the running game needs to improve after Sunday's 27 yards on 26 carries, but conceded those statistics were caused partly by the Texans' determination to stop the run. "I'm not standing here beating myself up over the fact that we only rushed for 27 yards," G Pete Kendall said, pointing out that the blitzes and pressures the Texans used to stuff the ground game were picked up by the line and gave Chad Pennington time to complete 24 of 31 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown ... Pennington said taking Mario Williams' hit and falling on his right shoulder without re-injuring it was a "confidence-builder."


Jets at Green Bay

1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WABC (770), WEPN (1050), WRCN (103.9)

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Jones hit with DWI


STAFF WRITER; Staff writer Christine Armario contributed to this story.

November 28, 2006

Jets tackle Adrian Jones was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated early Saturday morning. According to court documents, the 6-5, 296-pound player allegedly was driving very slowly in the far right lane and changing lanes without signaling at 4:25 a.m. when a police officer spotted him.

He was arraigned Saturday in Nassau County District Court in Hempstead.

"I am deeply sorry for my actions and for putting myself before the team," Jones said in a statement issued last night. "I apologized to my family, my teammates and my coaches for my behavior. I used poor judgment and will be held accountable for it."

Brian Davis, Jones' Garden City-based attorney, said Jones has a court conference scheduled for Dec. 15. He also has a DMV hearing scheduled for Dec. 8; Jones had his driver's license revoked because of his refusal to submit to an intoxilyzer test, according to Davis.

Nassau public information officer Vincent Garcia said Jones was seen driving a 2005 Chrysler 300 northbound on Merrick Avenue at the time of his arrest. "He was driving erratically, so he's pulled over, and after being interviewed, he was arrested," Garcia said.

Jones, who has a driver's license from his home state of Texas, has no prior arrests in Nassau County. Such cases, when convicted, typically carry probation, a fine and license revocation. NFL players typically are placed in the league's substance-abuse program for evaluation and potential counseling for a first offense such as this.

Jones was the Jets' starting tackle early in the preseason but lost that job to Anthony Clement by the season opener. He was on the active 47-man roster through the first 10 games but was inactive Sunday when the Jets played the Texans. Jones was fined $20,000 by the team, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Jets released a statement last night: "We are extremely disappointed Adrian would put himself in this situation, and we take these allegations very seriously. The New York Jets expect all players and personnel to conduct themselves with the highest regard for the welfare of our community."

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COMEBACK KID:Chad Pennington took a vicious shot on his surgically-repaired right shoulder during Sunday's victory over the Texans, but bounced back from the hit and reported no problems yesterday. November 28, 2006 -- Chad Pennington reported with a smile yesterday that he came out of Sunday's victory over the Texans, during which he took a hard hit and had the wind knocked out of him, just fine. He even said he "tested" his surgically-repaired right shoulder when he got home Sunday night.

Pennington's toughness struck a chord with Eric Mangini.

"Chad is the type of guy that's not going to be denied," the Jets coach said. "That's how he approaches everything. There is no blueprint for what he's gone through. He's really breaking new ground in terms of a quarterback coming back from two surgeries to his throwing arm. There's nothing historically we could draw from and say that this is how it will go. Every injury is different, so you never know. He is very resilient."

Pennington joked that his fist-pumping after getting up from the hit has brought about some razzing from his teammates.

"Jonathan Vilma said he was going to fine me, especially for just getting the breath knocked out of me," Pennington said.


Mangini yesterday named Pennington as the team's offensive player of the week and LB Victor Hobson as the defensive player of the week. The special teams player of the week was split between K Mike Nugent (four FGs and a tackle) and WR Justin McCareins.

McCareins, Mangini said, asked the coaches if he could play special teams with the thought that he could help in kick coverage. He made two key tackles.

Mangini called McCareins "a great example of what we're looking for organizationally." McCareins lost his starting WR spot to Jerricho Cotchery this season and has played sparingly compared to what he's used to.

"He . . . came to Mike [Westoff, special teams coach] and said, 'I want to start playing on special teams, I want to contribute there,' " Mangini said. "We gave him the opportunity during the week to work on the teams. Then Justin McCareins goes out and makes two tackles on the kickoff team."

The practice player of the week was Joe Kowalewski, who Mangini said is a "high motor guy, who really knows only one speed.

"You always know a practice player is doing his job when he can frustrate the defense, and they're angry throughout practice because of the tempo that he's setting. Joe consistently makes people angry."


The Jets' Dec. 10 home game against the Bills has been moved from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. as a part of the NFL's flexible scheduling program.

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November 28, 2006 -- QUARTERBACKS A Chad Pennington (24-31, 286 yards, 1 TD, 115.8 rating) rediscovered the chemistry he said was lacking with his receivers. He, too, showed toughness bouncing back from a big hit by Mario Williams.

RUNNING BACKS F Tough sledding for the backs as the Jets combined for 27 yards on 26 carries. Cedric Houston had 11 carries for 13 yards, Kevan Barlow had eight for 5 and Leon Washington had five for 17. Brad Smith had one carry for a 10-yard loss.

WIDE RECEIVERS A Laveranues Coles (9-111, TD) was terrific, as usual making tough catches and having great communication with Pennington on the TD catch, which was an audible at the line. Jerri cho Cotchery (8-110) also had an outstanding game. Justin McCareins had two catches for 10 yards and Tim Dwight had one for 9.

TIGHT ENDS B Chris Baker (1-28) made a big impact play on that one catch.

OFFENSIVE LINE B Rookie LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson kept fellow top draft pick Mario Williams quiet (three tackles, no sacks). No penalties from the line after an abysmal previous week. They kept Pennington clean, but the run blocking left a bit to be desired.

DEFENSIVE LINE A DE Shaun Ellis had 11/2 sacks and five tackles. NT Dewayne Robertson had a half sack, a QB hurry and three tackles. Kimo von Oelhoffen had two tackles. Overall, a good job slowing the Houston run game, and good pass pres sure from the group with not a lot of blitzing.

LINEBACKERS A Victor Hobson had 11 tackles, Jonathan Vilma had seven and Bryan Thomas had four tackles, two sacks and two QB hurries. Matt Chatham had two tackles.

SECONDARY A Terrific day for CB Andre Dyson, who marked Andre Johnson tightly all game and had seven tackles. S Kerry Rhodes had 11 tackles, a critical INT and two passes defended.

SPECIAL TEAMS B Justin McCareins, who asked onto special teams just recently, was the star with two tackles in kick coverage. Coles had a big onside-kick recovery.

KICKING GAME A K Mike Nugent had four FGs, including a career-long 54-yarder, and he had a key special teams tackle. P Ben Graham aver aged 49.3 yards gross and 37.8 yards net.

COACHING A Eric Mangini had his players ready for a 3-7 Texans team with a dangerous edge. Bob Sutton had his defense in a groove and Brian Schottenheimer helped dial up big plays again for the passing offense.

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CATCHING COLES: Laveranues Coles celebrates a reception during Sunday's 26-11 victory.

November 28, 2006 -- A week ago, there was an audible clamoring for the quarterback to be benched, always one of the first signs of a team reeling.

The Jets had just been shut out for the second time this season and Chad Pennington had thrown two more interceptions, adding to what had been an uncharacteristic slump and the knee-jerk specialists were out in force, filling the radio airwaves with rants to whomever would listen that the Jets can never win with Pennington at quarterback.

Yesterday, one day after he was king for a day at Giants Stadium while keenly orchestrating the Jets' 26-11 whipping of the Texans, Pennington was hardly a topic of conversation.

Instead of having to answer for a slumping quarterback, the Jets' locker room yesterday was one filled with players exuding a quiet confidence, satisfied with a job well done, but hardly full of themselves.

The Jets' victory over the Texans left them with a 6-5 record and very much in the thick of the AFC wild-card playoff race.

With five regular-season games to play, the Jets are one game behind the Chiefs and Broncos (both 7-4) for a playoff berth and they're tied with the Jaguars (who beat them earlier in the season) and Bengals.

"We're building a pretty good season for ourselves so far, and that was one of the games we had to have," Jets tight end Chris Baker said of Sunday's win. "We couldn't afford to slip against (the Texans) to get to where we want to go. We obviously played well but by no means did we play perfect. We left some plays out there on the field."

Next up for the Jets is a road game against the Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers entered last night's game against the Seahawks with a 4-6 record

"We're going to go up there (to Green Bay) with a mission in mind," Baker said. "We're having a decent season, but it can be real good if we take care of business in the month of December."

Even though Jets players are essentially forbidden to utter the "P" word (playoffs), Baker said at this time of year human nature draws players to the sports pages to look at the standings and the possibilities.

"It's obvious we're right in the mix," he said.

Even Eric Mangini said he understands the lure that being in contention as December approaches brings, but he insisted he'll keep his eyes square on the next task at hand.

"I definitely appreciate the excitement of the fans in terms of the playoffs," Mangini said. "It's a good thing to be in that situation. Philosophically, though, I believe if you start worrying about what another team is doing, worrying about two or three games down the road, thinking about what could have been if we had done this in that game, you lose track of what's important, which is the next opponent.

"The only thing that's important for us is to control the games that we can control and win the games that we can win. All that other stuff takes care of itself. That's what I've experienced. That's what I've seen. That's the formula that I know works. I definitely appreciate the excitement and the thoughts behind it. I just philosophically believe this is the best approach and really the only approach."

The Jets are a team right now that has seemingly hit its stride defensively, having allowed only 35 points in the last three games, which includes a garbage-time TD on Sunday.

"Yeah, we're for real," defensive end Shaun Ellis said.

"This was a positive step forward," linebacker Matt Chatham said.


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Jets notebook: Pennington passes test

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- After arriving home Sunday night, QB Chad Pennington spent the evening testing his shoulder in everything he did.

In the Jets' 26-11 victory over the Texans that afternoon, rookie DE Mario Williams fell on Pennington and landed squarely on the right shoulder that has been twice surgically repaired. The hit knocked the wind out of Pennington, whose shoulder was pinned under his body when he fell.

"I was doing it all night long," Pennington said when asked if he had been flexing his shoulder to ensure it was okay. "I was doing it playing with my son, rolling around on the floor. After going through what I've been though ... I'm good. I feel good."

Pennington, who saw the replay of the hit yesterday for the first time -- "He got me pretty good," he said -- reported no pain or stiffness in his shoulder. Williams checks in at 6-6, 293 pounds.

"I think it's a confidence-builder, that's what it is," Pennington said of emerging from such a big hit injury-free. "That you can take a hit like that, get up and finish a game. You have to take your hat off to our strength and conditioning staff and training staff. They've done an excellent job of keeping me on a program."

Pennington said LB Jonathan Vilma threatened to fine him for his fist-pumping gesture as he was coming off the field. Because it was over-the-top, he was asked? "Yeah, especially for just getting the breath knocked out of me," said Pennington, laughing.

Coach Eric Mangini said he's going to stick with his three-back rotation even though the Jets rushed for just 27 yards on 26 carries against the Texans, who put eight players in the box determined to stop the run.

RB Kevan Barlow, who rushed for just five yards on eight attempts, said he has no problem with the rotation system.

"I think (the coaches) are happy with it and I'm not complaining," he said. "It keeps fresh legs and you get a different look from each back. It is what it is. If it's not broken, don't fix it."

The Jets rank 19th in the NFL in rushing (104.4 yards per game).

WR Justin McCareins, a sixth-year pro and former starter, volunteered to play special teams this week and recorded two tackles. It was the first time he played special teams in three seasons as a Jet.

"I think it was just an outstanding, not only effort on his part, but just shows all the things we're looking for from the players," Mangini said.

Pennington (offense), LB Victor Hobson (defense), K Mike Nugent and McCareins (special teams) were named the players of the game. TE Joe Kowalewski was named practice player of the week.

As part of the flexible schedule, the NFL has changed the Jets-Bills game on Dec. 10 at Giants Stadium from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. ... Jets players are excited about getting the opportunity to play at legendary Lambeau Field on Sunday, although a cold front is expected to move in and temperatures could be in the single digits.... Packers LB A.J. Hawk and Jets LB Anthony Schlegel were teammates last season at Ohio State.

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Jets defense is (finally) coming together

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The metamorphosis started the Thursday before the bye week. The date was Nov. 2. That day at practice, Jets coach Eric Mangini noticed his defense was clicking like it had never clicked before.

Finally, he thought, the light had come on.

"I thought the defense had its best practice of the season," Mangini recalled yesterday.

After eight games of frustration and hard knocks, the Jets' new 3-4 defense finally began to take hold that day. Since then, the unit has played its best football of the season over the past three games, including a stellar effort in a 26-11 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Giants Stadium.

In the three games, the Jets have allowed a total of 35 points.

Against the Texans, the Jets yielded a season-low 25 yards rushing, had four sacks (all by the front four with minimal blitzing), one interception that set up a touchdown and no penalties. Houston quarterback David Carr threw for 321 yards but needed 54 attempts (39 completions) and was under pressure all game.

Entering the game, the Jets ranked an embarrassing 29th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 146.2 yards per game. Overall, the defense was also ranked 29th, yielding 353.4 yards per game.

But in the three games since the bye week, the Jets (6-5) defeated the Patriots, 17-14, in Foxboro. They recorded four sacks and did a respectable job against the run (143 yards) with the exception of a 50-yard burst by Corey Dillon.

Then, the Jets went toe-to-toe with the Bears before losing 10-0.

"We got a lot done those couple of days (before the bye)," said second-year safety Kerry Rhodes, who is having a Pro Bowl-type season. "We went back to the basics with everything. Whatever we did wrong, we pointed it out. It didn't matter who it was. We just knew we had to stand up for each other and be accountable."

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Rosenfels finds contact is costly

QB breaks thumb on tackle; Van Pelt set to back up Carr


Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

What a way to end the Texans' quarterback controversy.

Consecutive losses to Buffalo and the New York Jets caused fans to howl for David Carr to be benched, but it became a moot point Monday when Sage Rosenfels was placed on injured reserve with a fractured right thumb.

Coach Gary Kubiak said he never considered replacing Carr in the 26-11 loss to the Jets, but now he won't be tempted, no matter how unproductive the offense is over the last five games.

Rosenfels' place was taken by free agent Bradlee Van Pelt, who played for Kubiak and offensive coordinator Troy Calhoun in Denver.

Center Mike Flanagan, who suffered two cracked ribs against the Jets, is out for the season and also was placed on injured reserve.

Second-year center Drew Hodgdon replaces Flanagan in the starting lineup. Receiver Jerome Mathis will be added to the active roster in place of Flanagan.

Of all the Texans' injuries this season, Rosenfels' was the strangest. He suffered the injury when making a tackle on the last play of the first half Sunday.

Rosenfels was holding for kicker Kris Brown for the first time because punter Chad Stanley had suffered a cut on his hand last week.

"Chad just didn't feel comfortable holding, and Sage is an excellent holder," Kubiak said. "It's unfortunate that it ended up this way, but for him to get down there and make that play was really something.

"To lose him sure hurts, but it was a hell of a play."

Kubiak had Brown attempt a 59-yard field goal, which was short. Justin Miller, who has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, fielded the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone and took off. Rosenfels charged down the field and made the tackle at the Jets' 19.

"After I made the tackle, my hand hurt a little, but I thought it was bruised," Rosenfels said Monday. "I didn't think much of it. Then the X-rays showed a small fracture at the base of my thumb where it connects to my wrist.

"The doctors said the cast should stay on for six weeks."

So what was the backup quarterback doing making a tackle down the field on special teams?

"Well, somebody had to make the tackle, right?" Rosenfels said. "I've made two tackles (hits) in my career. I was fined $12,500 for the first one, and now I've got this injury."

In a preseason game against New Orleans four years ago, Rosenfels threw a block on a reverse that resulted in the fine.

He was holding for kicks Sunday for the first time since his junior year at Iowa State.

"Even though I'm on injured reserve, I plan on doing everything the same way every day," he said. "I want to help David and the other quarterbacks. I want to do my part because I really believe in what coach Kubiak is doing."

Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith wanted Van Pelt because of his familiarity with the system.

"We had him for two years, and he knows what we're doing," Kubiak said. "Bradlee's been in some games, and if something happens to David, it'll help us to have somebody that can play."

The Texans would have been in even more trouble against the Jets if Carr had been injured.

The Texans keep two quarterbacks on the roster. Rookie tight end Owen Daniels is the emergency quarterback.

"If that had happened, I think Sage would have gone in and handed the ball off, or Owen would have had to play," Kubiak said.

After the injury, Rosenfels threw on the sideline.

"I knew something was wrong in the second half because Sage couldn't grip the ball," Kubiak said. "If you can't grip it, you can't throw it.

"We didn't know it was broken until we got back (to Houston)."

The coaches knew something was wrong with Flanagan, too, but he took a shot at halftime to help him play in the second half, despite the two cracked ribs.

Flanagan joins left tackle Charles Spencer (broken leg) and right tackle Zach Wiegert (torn anterior cruciate ligament) as starting offensive linemen who have been placed on injured reserve since the season began.


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New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has been around long enough to see nearly everything, so we will accept this slightly hackneyed truth from him: "Every week you have to bring your 'A' game if you expect to win."

Some teams can win when they are not at their best, but the Jets probably aren't one of them. Nor does their first-year coach, the driven Eric Mangini, ever let up on his quest for perfection.

So some of the highlights of the Jets' 26-11 win against the Houston Texans might be things they did not do. They committed no turnovers and were penalized once (for 5 yards). Then there were the things they actually did. Mike Nugent kicked a career-long field goal of 54 yards to give the Jets a 9-3 lead, and the defense held the Texans, who rushed for 188 yards a week ago, to 25 yards on 14 attempts. The Jets took the ball away twice and permitted one sack of Pennington while collecting four of David Carr.

"All those things working together, I thought it was one of our best collective team efforts," Mangini said. "The last three weeks it's getting a little bit better."

In that span, which includes a win at New England and a loss to Chicago, the Jets have allowed three touchdowns.

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