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STATEMENT GAME (by the Patriots)

By John Melillo
Jets, Staff Writer
December 26th, 2004
A quiet confidence filtered through Weeb Ewbank Hall throughout the week as the New York Jets prepared to make a big statement versus the hated New England Patriots this afternoon. With a playoff berth at stake, the Jets crawled into a shell and failed to match the intensity level of their division rivals, resulting in a disappointing 23-7 loss at the Meadowlands today. Jets RB Curtis Martin expressed his frustration and disappointment with the team’s sub par performance.

A quiet confidence filtered through Weeb Ewbank Hall throughout the week as the New York Jets prepared to make a big statement versus the hated New England Patriots this afternoon. With a playoff berth at stake, the Jets crawled into a shell and failed to match the intensity level of their division rivals, resulting in a disappointing 23-7 loss at the Meadowlands today. Jets RB Curtis Martin expressed his frustration and disappointment with the team’s sub par performance.

“This is the worst we’ve performed all year,” a dejected Martin said, who finished with a season-low 33 yards on 13 carries. “Today, we just got our butts kicked.”

Head coach Herm Edwards was just as candid following a game that was virtually lopsided from the Jets’ opening possession.

“(The Patriots) just came down here and flat-out kicked our behinds – on offense, defense and special teams,” Edwards said. “We knew what was at stake. We needed to win a game at home to get back in the playoffs and we didn’t do it.”

Now the additional pressure lies in next week’s regular season finale versus the St. Louis Rams, in which the Jets will need a victory to make the postseason. Otherwise, Gang Green’s destiny lies in a number of situations involving several clubs still clawing for their playoff lives.

“The thing about it is, we have another week to go back out and try to win a game next week,” Edwards said.

But the test was today’s game and the Jets flunked it miserably. From the game’s opening possession, the Jets failed to take advantage of a decimated Pats’ secondary. QB Chad Pennington forced a pass down the middle for WR Santana Moss, but Pats LB Tedy Bruschi was in perfect zone coverage to reach up and pluck Chad’s misfire. Bruschi returned the interception 36 yards, but the Pats’ offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover.

On their ensuing possession, the Jets drove 50 yards on 13 plays, only to see the drive stall after Martin was thrown for a four-yard loss on third-and-two at the Pats 36-yard line. The Jets were able to pin the Pats down inside their own 10-yard line following a Toby Gowin punt. However, on the first play, the Jets’ defense allowed a 29-yard reception by WR David Givens to get the Pats out of bad field position. While their drive did not culminate into points, the Jets allowed a golden opportunity slip away by failing to recover a fumble caused by CB Terrell Buckley, who reached in and stripped RB Corey Dillon. The Jets would have had excellent field position in Pats territory. The defense later redeemed themselves after LB Jonathan Vilma recorded a crucial sack on third down to stop QB Tom Brady and the Pats.

After a three-and-out offensive series, the Jets yielded the first points of the game, allowing a 15-play, 78-yard drive by the Pats that resulted in a 28-yard field goal by PK Adam Vinatieri.

By the second quarter, the momentum remained firmly along the visitor’s sidelines, as the Patriots exhibited the consistency and efficiency that has made them so successful in recent years. After dominating the time of possession in the first quarter (11:20), the tide would change in favor of the Patriots, who held the advantage over the final three quarters.

With the score 3-0, the Patriots would re-gain possession following a dismal offensive series by the Jets. Gang Green’s defense fell victim to an aerial assault by QB Tom Brady and the offense, as Brady completed 5 of 6 passes for 81 yards on a drive that resulted in a 16-yard TD strike to TE Daniel Graham. Following the Pats eight play, 86-yard scoring drive, the Jets found themselves behind 10-0 near the end of the first half.

The offensive ineptitude continued on the Jets next series and the Pats capitalized before the end of the first half after a 29-yard FG by Vinatieri padded the Pats’ lead to 13-0.

Herm Edwards admitted that the team’s offensive approach altered once the Jets fell behind by two scores.

“We were trying to throw the ball, but we didn’t have a lot of possessions in the first half,” Edwards said. “They controlled the clock and they controlled the game.”

Despite the gloomy outset to the game, Edwards noted that the team felt confident following the halftime break.

“I thought we could recover from that,” Edwards admitted. “We still could have gotten some points in the second half.”

Unfortunately, the only points the offense could muster was a touchdown reception by WR Santana Moss with under 10 minutes remaining and the team down 23-0.

The Jets opened the second half much like the first half, as they struggled in all facets of the game. Neither team was able to able to lead a scoring drive on their opening second-half possession. The Pats did pad their lead in the waning seconds of the third period after Vinatieri booted his third field goal to bring the deficit to 16-0.

On their ensuing possession, the Jets were hurt by a 10-yard sack registered by Pats DE Jarvis Green. After a false start penalty on OT Jason Fabini, the Jets’ offense was staring at third-and-24. Pennington attempted to convert the down by forcing a throw to WR Wayne Chrebet over the middle, but the pass was intercepted by DB Eugene Wilson. The turnover eventually led to a 6-yard TD strike from Brady to WR Deion Branch.

Down by 23 points, the Jets’ offense shifted to hurry-up mode. During the garbage time, Pennington and the offense was able to pad their stats, but it did little to soften the blow the Pats dealt to Gang Green today. Pennington orchestrated the Jets’ lone scoring drive on their next possession. Pennington hooked up with a leaping Moss on a 15-yard TD reception on a play in which Moss bullied his way into the end zone.

Following the game, Pennington discussed the struggles of the offense and his disappointment.

“It is just one of those things, when it rains, it pours,” Pennington said, who finished 22 of 36 for 252 yards with one touchdown and three turnovers (2 INT, 1 fumble). “You put in a lot of work and preparation, and it blows up in your face. It is disappointing; (but) thank goodness it wasn’t the last game of the season. We still have another chance.”

That next chance will come on the road against the St. Louis Rams and the Jets will need to win in order to control their own destiny.

While today’s loss was certainly disheartening, Jets coach Herm Edwards vowed his team would rebound next week.

“They respond every time we have a tough loss, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to respond again,” Edwards said. “A lot of the guys here have done it before, and the guys that haven’t – I think they will.”

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: -During halftime, a ceremony was held for former DL Joe Klecko, who had his No. 73 jersey retired. Klecko becomes the third jersey to be retired by the club, joining Joe Namath and Don Maynard. The Jets presented Klecko and his family a 2005 Toyota Tundra and a trip to Hawaii.

-Patriots QB Tom Brady rebounded well from his subpar performance last week vs. Miami, completing 21 of 32 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and a QB rating of 112. Pennington’s QB rating was 68.3.

-Jets veteran WR Wayne Chrebet was expected to breakout this week versus WR-turn-CB Troy Brown covering the slot receiver. Chrebet caught four passes for 51 yards, with a long of just 20 yards.

-The Patriots out rushed the Jets 114-46.

-The two starting rookies on the Jets’ defense led the team in tackles as LB Jonathan Vilma tallied a combined 11 tackles while S Erik Coleman registered 10. In addition, Vilma also recorded a crucial sack during the first half.

INJURY REPORT: S Reggie Tongue apparently suffered an undisclosed injury following a tackle on a Dillon run late in the fourth quarter. Tongue was able to walk off the field under his own power and was replaced by S Oliver Celestin. After the game, Edwards announced that the club did not suffer any injuries.

-The Jets declared QB Brooks Bollinger, QB Ricky Ray, CB Derrick Strait, S Rashad Washington, OG Dave Yovanovits, OT Marko Cavka, WR Jonathan Carter and DE John Abraham inactive during today’s game.

The Jets will travel to St. Louis to face the Rams next Sunday. Check back often to Jets for all the latest team news and reports as the Jets prepare for QB Marc Bulger and the Rams.

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