A fresh start
By Justin Paley
Jets Staff Writer
January 3rd, 2005
Despite backing in, the Jets will make their third playoff appearance in four seasons under head coach Herman Edwards when they travel to face the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers on Saturday night.

Despite backing in, the Jets will make their third playoff appearance in four seasons under head coach Herman Edwards when they travel to face the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers on Saturday night.

“It’s a new season for us,” Edwards said. “Anything can happen. That’s what’s so great about being in the playoffs. Our players will be excited about playing. We’re going out there to win a game. We’re not going out there just to be in the playoffs. We’ve done that already. We want to keep getting in it and keep winning games when you get in the playoffs. That’s our mindset, that’s our goal.”

The Jets were hoping to take care of business themselves and clinch a playoff berth by defeating St. Louis yesterday. But the Jets fell 32-29 in overtime and got into the playoffs as Buffalo lost to Pittsburgh. Edwards was asked about the Jets backing into the playoffs.

“You back in when no one else wants to go,” Edwards said. “We didn’t back into anything. We earned our way by winning 10 games.”

The Jets offense once again struggled, putting up only 16 points on the board. Edwards talked about what the offense has to do.

”We just got to score points,” Edwards said. “We’re shutting ourselves down when we get in position to score touchdowns. We have to do a better job of that.”

The Jets defense struggled as well yesterday allowing a QB to pass for over 300 yards the first time this year and had trouble stopping the Rams wide receivers. Rams QB Marc Bulger torched the Jets for 450 yards and 3 touchdowns and WR Torry Holt caught 7 passes for 116 yards and two scores.

Edwards said the Jets need to learn from their mistakes.

“We can’t just let people throw the ball all over the field and make touchdowns and make big explosive plays,” the HC said. “We have to tighten up the reins in the back end and put more pressure on the quarterback at times, try to get the quarterback down so he doesn’t comfortable in the pocket.”

Defensive Coordinator Donnie Henderson admitted the Jets did not play physical with the Rams receivers.

“We didn’t put our hands on them like we should have,” Henderson said.

LB Jonathan Vilma played well, returning an interception for a touchdown to put the Jets up 26-21.

One bright spot to take out of yesterday’s game was the performance of RB Curtis Martin, who rushed for 153 yards. Martin finished as the NFL Rushing Leader with 1,667 yards, one yard ahead of Seattle’s ShaunAlexander. Edwards talked about the accomplishment.

“It couldn’t happen to a better player in our league,” Edwards said. “We’re talking about a class guy. He’s a guy under the radar screen for most of his career. He’s just achieved something no other player’s done at his age. I’m glad I got to watch it and be a part of it.”

The Jets now prepare for the San Diego Chargers. It will be the second meeting between the teams this season, as the Jets defeated San Diego, 34-28 in week two.

The Chargers are a much different team than the one that lost to the Jets, as they finished the year 12-4, winning nine of their last ten games. That’s a quick turnaround from last year’s 4-12 record.

Chargers QB Drew Brees has done a nice job this season, throwing for 3,159 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 1,335 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. The past two times the Jets have faced him, he has been held under 100 yards.

The Jets secondary will have the task of stopping TE Antonio Gates. Gates is the leading receivers on the Chargers with 81 catches for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. In the first match-up this season, Gates was limited to four catches for 39 yards. S Jon McGraw did a nice job shutting down Gates and Henderson said McGraw would be matched up against Gates again.

Pennington will have to have a strong performance on Saturday and Edwards talked about what Pennington needs to do.

“What he has to do is really don’t put so much pressure on himself, just go out and have fun and play,” Edwards said. “Because he can’t win the game by himself. He has to do his part but he needs help too. We have to catch the passes that he throws. We can’t drop passes that we could catch. We got to make some catches for him sometimes to bail him out of situations. He has to be at times accurate on what he wants to do and make decisions, don’t second guess himself. I think at times he second guesses himself a little bit, tries to anticipate too many things. But that’s just part of the process, and he’s going through it. He’s our guy. I expect he’s going to play well this week.”

Edwards said Pennington’s shoulder is still bothering him and talked about the impact that has.

“If his shoulder’s not a hundred percent, he’s lost a little bit of his velocity on throwing the ball,” Edwards said. “That’s going to hinder him a little bit.”

The Jets are 0-2 on the road in the playoffs under Edwards. But Edwards says the team will be ready.

“If we play well, we can win games on the road,” Edwards said. “We’ll have a tough test this week, but we’ll be excited about playing.”

MISCELANEOUS TIDBITS: In the second half yesterday, S Reggie Tongue was benched in favor of S Oliver Celestin. Henderson talked about the reasoning behind it. “I felt in first half, plays should have been made by certain individuals,” Henderson said. “I don’t know how long (the change) will stay.

-With the Jets trailing 21-20 early in the third quarter, the Jets called their second timeout. “After the kickoff, Jonathan (Vilma) made the tackle and bruised his knee, he’s hobbling off the field,” Edwards said. “Oliver Celestin was in the game. We ran another guy on and Celestin got into a panic. He didn’t think we had enough guys to call time-out. He hasn’t been here long enough to know the rule. You don’t get to do that, unless it’s the fourth quarter or second quarter. He didn’t understand that. That’s not his fault. He called time-out panicking, thinking we didn’t have enough guys in there. I told him ‘you don’t get to call timeouts.’”

-After Vilma intercepted Bulger’s pass and returned it for a touchdown to put the Jets up 26-21 late in the third quarter, the Jets decided to go for a two-point conversion. Edwards explained the decision. “We wanted to go up by seven,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t work out for you when you don’t make your two-point play and they make theirs. If it got to seven, they make it, we can win the game with a field goal. The problem was we didn’t make the two-point play. They made their two-point play.”

INJURY REPORT: It appears likely that DE John Abraham will return to action on Sunday. Abraham has not played since injuring his knee on December 5 against Houston. “In his mind now, he’s ready,” Edwards said. “He feels pretty confident. I never want to put a guy in harm’s way. I just think he’s ready to go this week and that’s good. He’ll practice some more this week and see how it goes.” Edwards said WR Wayne Chrebet suffered a mild concussion in the first quarter. It was particularly scary because Chrebet missed the last eight games last year with post-concussion syndrome. Edwards said it was in the best interest to hold out Chrebet the rest of the game. The only other Jet injury is LB Kenyatta Wright, who is questionable with a sprained right foot he suffered in yesterday’s loss.

-LB Kenyatta Wright (foot): Questionable
-DE John Abraham (knee Probable
-WR Wayne Chrebet (concussion): Probable

The Jets players were given the day off and will hold a walk-through tomorrow before returning to full practice on Wednesday. The Jets will travel to San Diego to face the Chargers on Saturday for an AFC wild-card showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Check back often to Jets for all the latest team news and reports as the Jets prepare for the playoffs!