Jets S Eric Coleman tackes Lions WR Eddie Drummond. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With the explosive passing games of the Jets and Detroit Lions meeting at the Meadowlands on Sunday, a high-scoring shootout appeared inevitable. Both teams’ aerial attacks were present from the get-go, but it was Jets rookie-RB Leon Washington’s monstrous day that helped Gang Green run away with a second straight victory.
Jets RBs Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock were inactive for the Week Seven game; Houston because of an injured knee, and Blaylock for failing to meet expectations. That cleared the way for a new RB-tandem to try and revive the team’s struggling ground game, and they took full advantage of the opportunity.
”We’ve got Barlow and Leon [Washington], which gives us a nice one-two punch,”
QB Chad Pennington explained at a post-game press conference. “Kevan [Barlow] gets the tough yards – he’s really physical – and Leon gives us that… ability to break it for a lot of yards.”
Washington got the Jets off to a strong start by helping them move 81 yards down the field on their opening drive for a touchdown. The score, a five-yard run by Washington, marked the first of his NFL career and the team’s first touchdown in the first quarter in 20 games.
RB Kevan Barlow added a few big runs of his own on the scoring drive, as well as many more throughout the day. In the second quarter, he willed his way into the endzone for a three-yard touchdown, his fifth of the season.
The early success of the running game helped the Jets gain more opportunities to pass the ball deep, which is exactly what they did on their second drive of the game. After forcing the Lions to punt, the Jets marched up the field, constantly exploiting the hole in Detroit’s defensive line left by Pro Bowler Shaun Rogers, who is serving a four-game suspension levied by the NFL. On third down and one, Lions D-coordinator Donnie Henderson (formerly of the Jets) guessed run, and Jets QB Chad Pennington threw a 44-yard bomb over the blitzing secondary to WR Justin McCareins for a touchdown. The touchdown was the first of the season for McCareins.
Lions WR Roy Williams, who entered the game leading the NFL in receiving yards, scored a touchdown in the second quarter on a pass from QB Jon Kitna, but was pretty much shut down by the Jets secondary after that.
The same cannot be said for Lions WR Mike Furrey. With Williams drawing double- and sometimes triple-coverage in the secondary, Kitna found himself a new favorite-target in Furrey. Furrey, a former player for the New York Dragons of the Arena Football league and safety for the St. Louis Rams last season, caught a game-high nine balls for 109 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown. The added coverage on Williams left newly-signed CB Hank Poteat to cover Furrey, and he was burned all afternoon by him.
Jets WR Laveranues Coles, who started the day second in the NFL in receiving yards behind only Roy Williams, had an equally lackluster day. Coles caught just four passes for a total of 29 yards on the afternoon and did not manage to score. He did, however, draw coverage away from WR Jerricho Cotchery, who hauled in seven passes for 79 yards.
By the end of the game, Leon Washington racked up 129 yards on just 20 carries for a whopping 6.5 YPC. He also recorded two touchdowns – the go-ahead score in the first quarter, and the put-away one in the fourth. Washington’s second touchdown was the most exciting score of the day as he bounced to the outside from 16 yards out and avoided stepping out-of-bounds by tip-toeing on the sideline.
Washington refused to take full credit for the gorgeous run, however. Aside from reiterating how well the offensive line played throughout the game, “Lightning” Leon Washington made sure to thank Coles, who threw the key block on the sideline that game him the opportunity to score.
With contributions from Washington, Barlow, Coles, Cotchery, WR/QB Brad Smith, and a few QB-keepers by Pennington, the Jets racked up an outstanding 221 rushing-yards as a team.
Barlow compared the all-passing offense from earlier in the season with today’s performance. ”Now you’re starting to balance things out,” he said after the game,” and hopefully we can continue that for the rest of the season.”
Still, Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini was nervous right up until Washington’s first-down run at the two-minute-warning sealed the deal. The first-year coach was thrilled to be able to actually kneel out a game instead of taking it to the wire, like the Jets’ other victories.
”That’s always my favorite formation,” he said, referring to the QB kneel, “the victory formation.”
-With the victory, the Jets guarantee having a record of no-less than .500 going into their Week Nine bye. A win against the Cleveland Browns on the road next Sunday would give Gang Green a highly-improbable 5-3 record at the bye.
The Jets fourth win of the season also matches their total for 2005, when the team went 4-12 and finished last in the AFC East. They are currently in second place.
The win also marked the first back-to-back wins for the Jets since the 2004 season. Additionally, the win now evens out the Jets’ home record at 2-2 for the season.
-Jets S Kerry Rhodes recorded his second interception of the season against the Lions, matching his career-high. Jets LB Jonathan Vilma also intercepted a ball for his first pick of the regular season despite having numerous preseason picks.
-Pennington topped 10,000 passing-yards for his career in the second quarter with a 23-yard completion to Cotchery. He is only the fifth Jet to accomplish this feat, joining the ranks of Joe Nameth, Ken O’Brien, Richard Todd, and Vinny Testaverde.
Pennington finished the day with 189 passing-yards, giving him 10,071 for his career.
-Detroit is now 1-6 on the season and the losing appears to be taking its toll on veteran-QB Jon Kitna. When asked about the team’s disappointing record, Kitna responded bluntly, “It sucks being 1-6.”
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