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INSIDER MONDAY TEAM REPORT

By Dan Powell
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
November 20th, 2006
The play of Jets S Kerry Rhodes was one bright spot is Sunday's loss to the Bears. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The play of Jets S Kerry Rhodes was one bright spot is Sunday's loss to the Bears. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
A day after being shutout 10-0 by the Chicago Bears, the Jets returned to Hofstra surrounded by question marks. At .500 on the season, but with the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, it is tough to say if the Jets are still alive or not in the playoff hunt as they sit two games back of the perennial AFC East champion Patriots.

At the very least, the Jets have shown they can hang with the big boys in the NFL by playing close home games against Chicago and Indianapolis and with their big road win over New England in Week 10. However, the Jets have also had some disappointing losses, most notably a 41-0 debacle in Jacksonville and a squandered Week 8 game against the seemingly hapless Cleveland Browns.

The Jets defense made a strong statement in yesterday’s game. The 10 points was Chicago’s lowest of the season as the Jets limited quarterback Rex Grossman to just 119 yards on 11 of 22 passing. The unit also made a tremendous goal line stand early in the third quarter by stopping running back Thomas Jones on first, second, and third down runs from the four, three, and two yard-lines, respectively.

“I’ve been pleased defensively over the last two weeks,” head coach Eric Mangini said. “We held two of the best offenses in the league to a total of 24 points.”

As good as the defense was, it meant nothing because of the inconsistency of the Jets offense. The Jets managed a mediocre 270 yards of total offense but did manage to move into Bears territory on four different occasions. Two interceptions thrown by quarterback Chad Pennington proved to be the backbreaker as twice when the Jets were threatening, Chicago was able to take the ball away. This is the second tough outing for Pennington in the last three games, but Mangini made it clear he is standing by his quarterback and has no thoughts of making a change.

“I think he’s done a good job,” Mangini said of the veteran. “I think he’ll continue to do a good job.”

The biggest question mark from Sunday’s game, however, was Mangini’s decision to start the second half with an attempted onside kick. The Jets tried to trick the Bears by lining up as it were going to be a normal kickoff then having kicker Mike Nugent turn around and pop the ball into the air to give the Jets coverage team a chance to recover. Chicago was ready for the play, though, and caught the kick to start the second half with tremendous field position.

The play seemed to show a lack of confidence in the offense’s ability to move the ball and put a ton of pressure on Gang Green’s defense. The Bears ultimately came away with the first three points of the game on the ensuing drive, and that would be all they needed. Even with a day to sleep on it, Mangini said he would still make the same decision again.

“I thought it was going to work,” Mangini said of the trick kickoff, similar to one that the Jets successfully used against the Colts. “It wasn’t about the offense or the defense. I really liked the play.”

The coach could not have liked the result of the play or Sunday’s game, however. The Jets now sit at 5-5 and seem to be on the bubble. While the coach cannot like looking up to the Patriots in the standings and insists all he and the team are concerned with is the upcoming game with Houston, Mangini has to like the team’s remaining schedules. The Jets do not play a single team with a winning record in their last six games, an important fact considering the Jets may just have to run the table in order to make the playoffs.

INSIDER TIDBITS

-Mangini acknowledged that the Jets were in an all-out blitz on the 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mark Bradley. All the receivers were covered by one defender but everyone else was blitzing.

“They were all going at it,” Mangini said. “Somebody’s band is going to play.”

-After Sunday’s loss, Pennington commented that the offense has lost some chemistry. While not all players went that far, some guys like guard Pete Kendall and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery admitted there have been some problems.

“Some of it was the number one defense in the NFL playing like it and some of it are things we can control,” Kendall said. “We ran the ball well, we were efficient on third downs, the only thing we didn’t do was score points.”

-Running back Cedric Houston said he felt good and did not have any soreness in his leg after he returned from a leg injury Sunday.

“It always feels good to get out their and get some solid reps,” Houston said.

The team has off tomorrow and returns to begin preparation for the Texans on Wednesday. Be sure to check back to JI for all the latest Jets news!

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