By James J. Parziale
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
September 25th, 2005
The promise of a high-powered offense – one which would carry the Jets to a Super Bowl – has been replaced by an injury-riddled, mistake-prone squad which can’t get out of its own way.
Head coach Herm Edwards tried to mask it with a “win ugly” philosophy, but when you take away the win aspect, you end up losing brutally, which happened today. The Jets squandered a tremendous defensive performance and lost, 26-20, to the Jaguars in overtime in a game neither team wanted to win. This one will sting for a while, both emotionally and physically.
The offense’s struggles have been due in part to QB Chad Pennington, who missed time rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder. He was coddled in training camp to avoid re-injuring the shoulder, but today the Jaguars (2-1) defense battered Pennington. The future doesn't look any better for Jets QB's as long time veteran T Jason Fabini injured his knee and initial word is that the injury is very serious.
On the second play of the third quarter, Pennington was in the middle of his throwing motion when Jaguars DE Paul Spicer made contact with the shoulder, causing Pennington to lose the ball. Pennington, who put the ball on the ground six times on Opening Day, fumbled on the next play, and backup Jay Fiedler replaced him on the ensuing series.
On the Jets (1-2) next possession, Fielder landed awkwardly on his right shoulder and was forced out. Pennington convinced Edwards to come back into the game despite feeling a “sharp pain” in the shoulder. Both will have MRIs tomorrow, and until the results come in, everyone is holding their breath.
Pennington said the pain is “similar to last year” when he injured the shoulder against Buffalo, and this will be another test of his fortitude.
“Times like these test you character and will power,” he said. “It’s frustrating and demoralizing. You work hard to get back to playing and when something like that happens it tests your mind and confidence.”
Fielder also wouldn’t speculate on his injury, but his situation sounds less than optimistic after he felt “something go in there” while he was hit.
“I wasn’t going to be able to throw a football,” Fiedler said. “It’s hard to tell right now [where the injury is].”
Undoubtedly the decision to bring Pennington back in – rather than send in third-stringer Brooks Bollinger – will be second-guessed for the rest of the season if tomorrow’s announcement harbors bad news.
“He was limited,” Edwards said. “I was getting ready to go to Brooks, but [Pennington] was defiant about it.”
Much like during training camp, Edwards wouldn’t speculate about Pennington’s shoulder. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., when he takes the podium at Hofstra, Edwards will reveal the fate for the rest of the Jets season.
“I have no idea where’s he is at this point,” Edwards said of Pennington. “Jay [Fiedler] couldn’t go back in so that tells you where he’s at.”
If Pennington and Fielder will miss significant time, it is likely the Jets will attempt to sign a veteran backup. Bollinger, whose lone NFL action came last year in a 13-3 win at Arizona, will take the reigns.
“He might be the starter next week,” Edwards said of Bollinger, who has never started a professional game.
“Brooks is a fiery guy and has got some talent,” Fiedler said. “He’s definitely not scared to go out there.”
It likely wouldn’t have mattered if Joe Namath was under center for the Jets, the offense was in shambles. Pennington (9 of 19 for 76 yards) threw two interceptions and had a QB rating of 18.6. The Jets first two possessions of the game started at their own 3-and 4-yard lines. The offense held the ball for just 11 minutes in the first half, and had it not been for a 35-yard pass interference play on their lone scoring drive, they likely wouldn’t have scored. FB Jerald Sowell’s first career rushing touchdown cut the Jets deficit to 10-7 before halftime.
“We have to stay on the field,” RB Curtis Martin said. “As an offense we’re not upholding our end.”
The offense mustered just 168 total yards and went three-and-out five times. For the game, the unit was on the field for just 25:34 while the Jaguars spent 40:31, pounding away at the jets defense.
“That’s what we get paid for,” LB Jonathan Vilma, who had 13 tackles, said. “It’s not about [effort] it’s about winning and losing. Today, we lost.’
The Jets defensive players won’t say it, but their offensive compatriots have not done the job this year. The defense took matters into its own hands as best it could today.
Specifically, those hands belonged to DT James Reed and CB David Barrett on two fumble returns. Reed rumbled for a 33-yard touchdown after DE John Abraham came off the corner unblocked for a sack. That gave the Jets a 14-10 lead.
But the Jaguars, a vaunted running team, kept pounding away. RB Fred Taylor carried the ball 37 times for 98 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown which gave Jacksonville a 20-14 lead.
The Jets narrowed the gap to 20-17 and it was Barrett’s turn. With just under four minutes remaining, he forced the ball from Jaguars’ WR Reggie Williams and recovered the fumble. He returned it to the Jacksonville 21, and six plays later the Jets looked to have stolen another game.
Pennington threw to the back of the end zone where WR Wayne Chrebet was ruled in bounds with possession, and for a moment the Jets led 23-20. After a booth review, the play was reversed because Chrebet juggled the ball.
“I just tried to hold on as long as I could,” Chrebet said.
K Mike Nugent made his second field goal – a 25-yarder – to send the game to overtime. The won the toss and went backwards to their 1 on a penalty and a sack and were forced to punt. After a punt, the Jaguars needed just three plays before WR Jimmy Smith caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich (16 of 23 for 177).
“I’m just glad to get the win,” said Leftwich, who threw two touchdowns. “We have won these types of games before and I never lost confidence in my team.”
The Jets, on the other hand, looks like team spiraling out of control.
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-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder) Awaiting MRI