Jets FB Jerald Sowell scores in the fourth quarter of the Jets 17-7 win over Miami. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
After his six-fumble circus act against the Chiefs on Opening Day, Chad Pennington issued a credo on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to drop another one,” Pennington declared. “I’ll promise you that.”
Well, Chad, don’t make promises you can’t keep. When Pennington lined up for his first snap today against Miami, he inexplicably put the ball on the ground. Pennington botched the center-quarterback exchange trying to handoff to RB Curtis Martin, who also fumbled.
“Isn’t that fitting,” Pennington said. “I was so mad about that I was scrambling to get the ball back.”
It was like a recurring nightmare for the Jets. However, every member of crowd of 77,918 exhaled after Miami’s defense was called off sides. Technically, Pennington didn’t fumble, but it didn’t stop the ensuing boos and the derisive cheers.
But on a day where the offense was far from pretty save for a handful of drives, Pennington and the Jets defense saved the best for last and the $64-million quarterback engineered a game-saving, fourth-quarter drive in the Jets 17-7 win.
Pennington completed all seven passes on the Jets final scoring drive, the most crucial on a third-and-12 from the Jets 18. Pennington connected with WR Justin McCareins for 20 yards, and six plays later the Jets sealed the game when Pennington rolled to his left and found FB Jerald Sowell open in the end zone.
“Well it certainly was a blue-collar win,” Pennington said in reference to head coach Herman Edwards’s speech earlier in the week. “It certainly wasn’t exciting, but when you play good fundamental football, you win.”
Edwards outlined running the ball on offense, stopping the run, and playing smartly as the Jets (1-1) keys to victory. Winning ugly, he explained, was the way of the Jets world. Well, if ugly is what he wanted, Edwards got it today.
Pennington didn’t crack 200 yards passing and completed 19 of 30 passes. Martin, who had 18 carries in the first half, had just 70 yards. The Jets offense looked anything but efficient, but Edwards will take it.
“Our mindset all week was to get back to how we play,” Edwards said. “We didn’t beat ourselves and we ran the ball a little bit.”
After Pennington fumbled the first snap, the Jets would have went three-and-out the first drive, but a pass interference call bailed them out. From there, Martin took over. The fourth-leading rusher of all-time carried the ball six times on the nine-play, 80-yard drive. He tallied 59 yards and got the Jets to the Miami 8. On the next play, Pennington hit WR Laveranues Coles on a fade in the right corner of the end zone to make it 7-0.
Coles, who felt the offense must play better, was redeemed after dropping two potential touchdowns during last week’s loss at Kansas City.
“This was a long week for me. Practices seemed longer, everything seemed longer,” said Coles, who caught five passes for 68 yards.
The Jets led 10-0 at halftime, but could have had more on a drive that ended at the 1. On fourth-and-goal, Martin fumbled forward into the end zone after being stuffed by the Miami defense. The ball landed in FB Jerald Sowell’s hands and the Jets special teams unit started marching on the field for the extra point.
By rule, however, Martin was the only one who could recover the loose ball and Miami took over possession. What a surprise, a fumble that didn’t go the Jets way.
“If we don’t make it, our defense is still playing well in the first half,” Edwards said of his decision to go for the fourth down.
The Jets offense was stagnant through most of the second and third quarters, and the Dolphins (1-1) took advantage. Miami narrowed the Jets led to three when TE Randy McMichael, who broke through a poor tackle attempt by S Oliver Celestin, scored caught a four-yard touchdown pass from QB Gus Frerotte (20 of 43 for 177 yards).
Miami nearly forced the Jets to punt, but Pennington connected with McCareins for a 20-yard gain on third-and-12. Pennington hit five different receivers on the drive, and the touchdown to Sowell was on a nifty play-action fake where he rolled to his left. The Dolphins were called for holding on the play because they never saw it coming.
“If we don’t score there it’s a totally different ball game,” Edwards said.
The Jets defense finished the Dolphins off on the next possession. DE John Abraham led the charge by sacking Frerotte and forcing a fumble. His presence was felt all throughout the Miami offense with several quarterback pressures.
“We definitely stepped up from last week,” Abraham said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Edwards agreed, but said today’s game was a step in the right direction.
“We laid some bricks today,” he said.
Bricks are better than goose eggs.
Honorees. Former Jets LBs Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones were honored at halftime of today’s game. The two combined to play 342 games in green and white, and made another appearance in the stadium that housed all their memories.
Lewis said he does not miss playing.
“Every athlete’s day is going to come and I knew mine was coming,” Lewis said, who is coaching at a high school. “This game changed and every athlete needs to understand that, no matter what.”
Jones was honored to be a part of the ceremonies
“To be recognized in this fashion by an organization that has been around a long time is definitely heart-felt,” he said.
-This was the 80th regular-season meeting between the Jets and Dolphins. The Jets are now 23-17 or 24-16.
-Coles had 350th career catch came at the two-minute warning in the first half.
-Dolphins were four-for-14 on third downs
-Pennington moved into fifth lace all-time on Jets passing list.
DE Trevor Johnson was inactive against the Dolphins because a concussion he sustained Opening Day. Third-string QB Brooks Bollinger, RB Cedric Houston, OL Steve Morley, TE Joel Dreessen, and WR Dante Ridgeway were also inactive. Dolphins DE Tim McGill, who spent a majority of training camp with the Jets, was inactive.
PHOTO GALLERY: For over 100 Jets Insider.com Exclusive Jets/Dolphins game pictures