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Rams 32 - Jets 29 OT
By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com, Staff Writer
January 2nd, 2005

Hindered again by a predictable lethargic offense and a spotty defense that gave up almost 500 total yards, the Jets lost to the Rams in overtime 32-29. Despite finishing the season with two consecutive losses, the Jets still make the post season thanks to Buffalo's loss today to Pittsburgh. The team now travels to San Diego where they will face the AFC West Champion Chargers next Saturday night. ALSO: CuMart wins NFL rushing title.

Hindered again by a predictable lethargic offense and a spotty defense that gave up almost 500 total yards, the Jets lost to the Rams in overtime 32-29. Despite finishing the season with two consecutive losses, the Jets still make the post season thanks to Buffalo's loss today to Pittsburgh. The team now travels to San Diego where they will face the AFC West Champion Chargers next Saturday night.

All week, the Jets were focused on rebounding following their dismal performance in last weekís home finale versus the New England Patriots. Today, the Jets saw several players step up and produce a commendable effort that will hopefully continue into their wild-card game against the San Diego Chargers next Saturday.

On the Jetsí opening possession, the offense seemed in-sync after a 13-yard completion by QB Chad Pennington to WR Wayne Chrebet on third-and-seven and a 16-yard gallop by RB Curtis Martin that led the offense to midfield. Unfortunately, the Jets were thrown in reverse after three consecutive negative plays ended the drive.

After holding QB Marc Bulger and the explosive Ramsí offense to a three-and-out, the Jetsí offense led their first scoring drive, which culminated in a 47-yard FG by PK Doug Brien. The 15-play, 37-yard drive heavily featured RB Curtis Martin, who once again, was the driving force of the offense. Martin rushed for 153 yards on 28 carries and had two receptions for 22 yards on the day. In the first quarter, Martin moved into first place for the most all-purpose yards in club history.

After another Ramsí three-and-out, the Jetsí third possession was stymied after the offensive line yielded two of its six sacks to the Ramsí defense. The six sacks were the most Pennington has experienced in a single game. Following a 40-yard punt by Toby Gowin, the Ramsí offense sprung to life, as QB Marc Bulger needed just three 76 seconds to put his team ahead 7-3. Bulger connected with backup WR Kevin Curtis for 34 yards on a free play after DT Dewayne Robertson jumped offside. Bulger then hit rookie sensation RB Stephen Jackson for 19 yards on a screen play. The drive culminated with a 27-yard strike to WR Isaac Bruce, who was wide open on the play. CB Donnie Abraham lost Bruce in coverage, leaving the Ram receiver with an easy score.

In typical fashion, the Jetsí responded on their next offensive possession. Pennington would lead his troops on a six-play, 57-yard TD drive that recaptured the lead for the Jets 10-7. On the play, the offense ran a play-action bootleg with Pennington rolling right and lofting a pass to backup TE Chris Baker, who tumbled into the end zone.

With four minutes remaining in the first half, the Jets gathered some momentum, recording their first of three turnovers on the day. The Jetsí defense slammed the door on a promising Ramsí drive, as rookie S Erik Coleman cut in front of Rams WR Shaun McDonald to intercept a Bulger pass at the goal line. Colemanís takeaway came at an opportune time as the Rams seem poised to score after 19 and 33-yard receptions by Bruce and McDonald, respectively.

Following Colemanís theft, the Jetsí offense set up shop at their own 1-yard line and were forced to punt after backup RB LaMont Jordan was unable to bully his way for a crucial first down. A poor 34-yard punt by Gowin allowed the Ramsí offense a golden opportunity to score with just one minute remaining in the first half. Bulger and the Rams wasted little time, as the Ram QB lofted a perfect strike to speedy WR Torry Holt for a 44-yard TD. Holt beat CB David Barrett on a double move and S Erik Coleman arrived too late as the score put the Rams back on top 14-10 at halftime.

By the start of the third quarter, it seemed as though the Ramsí juggernaut on offense was too explosive for the Jetsí defense to stop. On their opening second-half possession, the Rams seamlessly glided down the field, needing just four plays to pad their lead 21-10. The key play on the drive was a controversial reception by Holt along the sidelines. Herm Edwards challenged the catch, but it was ruled a completion. The next play, Holt would victimize Barrett again, receiving a 35-yard pass interference penalty that would give the Ramsí first down at the Jetsí 20-yard line. Ramsí RB Stephen Jackson would finish the drive, charging around right end and through would-be tacklers for a 20-yard TD run.

Down by two scores, it was the special teams to the Jetsí rescue as rookie WR Jerricho Cotchery fielded the kickoff and dashed through a gaping hole along the left wedge for a 94-yard KO return for a touchdown. Cotcheryís return was his first score of his career. It was a key play to recapture momentum and breathe life into Gang Green. The score now stood 21-17.

Cotcheryís score appeared to have lit a fire under the defense, as DE Shaun Ellis recorded the first of his three sacks on the day. On the next play, a quick WR screen play to Bruce was blown up after DT Jason Ferguson hustled down the line and stripped the ball from Bruce. CB Donnie Abraham pounced on it to give the Jetsí offense excellent field position at the 34-yard line. Unfortunately, Pennington and the offense could only muster 19 yards and were forced to boot a 33-yard field goal to bring the score to 21-20 Rams.

Later in the third period, the Rams suffered their third turnover of the game after Ellis deflected a Bulger pass right into the mitts of rookie LB Jonathan Vilma, who raced 38 yards to give the Jets the lead 26-21. The Jets attempted a two-point conversion with Pennington intending a pass to TE Anthony Becht that fell incomplete.

By the start of the fourth quarter, it seemed that both defenses stepped up their games as both the Rams and Jets went three-and-out on their next possessions. Midway through the period, it would be Rams WR Kevin Curtis who would ignite a Ramsí scoring drive. The small, speedy reserve wide out sliced through the Jetsí secondary, hauling in three receptions of 9, 12 and 17 yards that would precede a 19-yard TD reception from Bulger to Holt. The Rams were successful on their two-point conversion, bringing the score 29-26 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

The pressure fell on Pennington and the offense to rescue the Jetsí season. With the Bills-Steelers game still undecided, the offense went to work on a perfectly balanced drive (6 runs, 6 passes) that would result in a 27-yard FG by Brien with three ticks left to knot the score at 29-29. The Jets were very fortunate to even attempt the field goal after Pennington gift-wrapped a pass to Rams S Adam Archuleta, who dropped a sure interception. It would have been one of the few mistakes by Pennington in the game, as he completed 21 of 36 for 181 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

In the overtime period, the Jets lost the coin toss, but could have won the game, had Brienís 53-yard field goal try not sailed wide right. The Rams would cap the game on a 31-yard FG by PK Jeff Wilkins as a result of a six-play, 44-yard drive.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: Martin has moved into 4th on the NFLís all-time rushing list, surpassing RBs Eric Dickerson and Jerome Bettis. As mentioned previously, Martin also moved into first place in franchise history for most yards from scrimmage during the game.

-Martin with his 153 yards running today also claims the NFL rushing title with 1697 yards beating Seattle's Shaun Alexander by one yard. At age 31, Martin is the oldest RB to win the rushing title since Cleveland's Marion Motley won it in 1950 at age 30.

-Ramsí QB Marc Bulger enjoyed a stellar performance, completing 29 of 39 for 450 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

-The Jetsí defense was stout vs. the run, allowing just 47 yards on 19 attempts. The Jets, meanwhile, rushed for 180 total yards in the game.

-Jetsí LB Jonathan Vilma produced an inspired effort, scoring his first NFL touchdown on a 38-yard INT return in the third quarter. Vilma recorded five tackles, including a bone-jarring hit covering a kickoff return by Rams KR Aveion Cason.

-OT Jason Fabini struggled for the second consecutive week, as he was penalized for two false starts and yielded two sacks and six tackles to Rams DE Bryce Fisher. The Jets offensive line gave up six sacks to the Rams which is the largest total since Pennington has been the starter.

-The Jets were just 5 of 18 on third downs today.

INJURY REPORT: After a crushing hit on Ramsí KO-returner Aveion Cason in the third period, Vilma hobbled off the field, but returned after missing one play. The camera caught WR Wayne Chrebet gesturing toward his head during a sideline discussion with teammate Eric Barton in the first quarter. Chrebet has had a history of concussions and may have suffered a blow to the head after a first-quarter reception. S Oliver Celestin suffered an undisclosed injury in the overtime period. Celestin was able to return to finish the game.

-The Jets declared G Dave Yovanovits, CB Derrick Strait, DE John Abraham, WR Jonathan Carter, OT Marko Cavka, QB Quincy Carter, QB Ricky Ray and S Rashad Washington inactive for Sundayís game.

The Jets will travel to San Diego to face the Chargers next Saturday for an AFC wild-card showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Check back often to Jets Insider.com for all the latest team news and reports as the Jets prepare for the playoffs!