By David Fletcher
Jets Staff Writer
December 25th, 2006
Dolphins WR Wes Welker is slammed by Jets DB's Eric Smith and Justin Miller during NY's 13-10 win in Miami.
Dolphins WR Wes Welker is slammed by Jets DB's Eric Smith and Justin Miller during NY's 13-10 win in Miami.

When Life Gives You Lemon… With the Jets’ playoff dreams on the line, Gang Green faced off against the rival Dolphins in a special Christmas-edition of Monday Night Football. Torrential rain led to a sloppy first half of play for both teams and even caused Miami’s starting-QB, Joey Harrington, to get benched for the second half for backup Cleo Lemon. The change was for naught, however, as a late offensive surge moved the Jets one step closer towards obtaining the ultimate holiday gift: a trip to the postseason.

The first two quarters of Monday’s nationally-televised game were marred by inconsistent play by both the Jets and Dolphins. The two teams combined for 14 possessions in the first half of play, and all-but-two of those ended with punts: one was a turnover on downs by New York after P Ben Graham failed to correctly spot the ball for a field goal attempt, and the other was the end of the half.

Due in part to the rain, starting-QBs Chad Pennington and Joey Harrington were simply horrendous early on. Pennington completed just five of 14 attempts for an anemic 41-yards passing, adding 11 yards on the ground. Harrington was no better, connecting on seven of 15 passes for 42-yards passing.

To add to the similarities between the two quarterbacks, each was sacked once in the first half for an eight-yard loss. The Dolphins’ sack belonged to Pro Bowl-DE Jason Taylor, who had his way with Jets’ rookie-T D’Brickashaw Ferguson all evening.

Dolphins’ Head Coach Nick Saban was so disenfranchised with his quarterback’s performance that he made a change at the start of the third quarter, putting in backup-QB Cleo Lemon in his place. Lemon’s first-ever snaps in an NFL game came just last week against the Buffalo Bills when he, once again, came in for a struggling Harrington.

After an inauspicious debut last Sunday, Lemon showed marked improvement on Monday against the Jets. He completed 11 of his 16 pass-attempts in the half, amounting to 104 yards in the air as well as the first touchdown pass of his NFL career. The touchdown – a seven-yard pass to TE Randy McMichael at the start of the final quarter – gave the Fins their first lead of the game with a score of 7-3.

The Jets’ offense, which had not been able to mount any sustained drives earlier on without starting-RB Cedric Houston (who was inactive for the contest), responding swiftly. Led by Chad Pennington, the team marched 80 yards on an 11-play drive for a touchdown. The drive was capped off with a 32-yard pass to WR Jerricho Cotchery for the score. Cotchery was initially ruled down at the one-yard line but Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini challenged the ruling and it was overturned.

While the Jets were without their top running-back, Miami’s leading rusher – RB Ronnie Brown – returned to the field for the first time since fracturing his wrist in a game on Thanksgiving Day. Brown, who rushed for 123 yards against the Jets earlier this season, dropped 110 yards on Gang Green under the Monday-night spotlights on just 18 carries.

On the ensuing possession, Miami went three-and-out and was forced to punt to the Jets. Unfortunately for New York, the ball took an awkward bounce and wound up hitting the elbow of LB Brad Kassell, who was serving as a blocker for the Jets. Miami recovered the turnover and quickly turned it into points, tying the game on a 25-yard field-goal by Olindo Mare.

The Jets got the ball back with 2:09 on the clock at their own 20-yard line after Mare’s kickoff went for a touchback. Pennington started the drive with a short screen-pass to rookie-RB Leon Washington and “Lightning Leon” took off with it, picking up 64 yards before being tugged down at Miami’s 16-yard line.

Miami used their only remaining time-out after a run by RB Kevan Barlow following the two-minute warning. After two more handoffs to Barlow and some beautiful clock management by Mangini, the Jets called a timeout with 14 seconds left on the game clock to set up the potential game-winning field goal.

During the brief timeout, television cameras focused on Pennington as he spoke with Jets K Mike Nugent. While the full context of the conversation is up to speculation, Nugent could be seen clearly mouthing the words, “don’t worry, I’m gonna win it,” to his quarterback. And win it he did.

Nugent nailed the 30-yard attempt with ease, putting the Jets ahead with only 10 seconds remaining. Rather than squib-kick it, Nugent booted the following kickoff to Miami’s one-yard line, and his teammates did the rest.

Although Pennington’s second-half numbers were miles better than what he put up earlier on, the player who came through when his team needed him most was Leon Washington. On top of the 64-yarder that set up Nugent’s field goal, Washington reeled in three more passes for an additional 44 yards, giving him a career-high 108 receiving-yards on the day.

So what do you do when life gives you Lemon? It’s simple - just get the ball to Leon Washington, sit back, and enjoy.


-With a win next week at the Meadowlands over the AFC-worst Oakland Raiders, the Jets will guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason.

Even with a loss against the Raiders, the Jets still have a chance to make the playoffs. One of three possible scenarios would have to occur: the Bengals and Jaguars both lose; the Bengals lose and the Titans win; or the Broncos and Jaguars both lose.

-The Jets (9-6) clinched their fifth winning season in the last seven years.

-The Jets are three games over .500 for the first time this year.

-The Jets are 6-2 on the road and 4-2 vs. the AFC East.

-The Jets are 6-4 vs. Miami on Monday Night Football and have won the last four Monday Night games vs. Miami. The win over Miami was the sixth for the Jets over Miami since 1998.

-Chad Pennington’s 15-yard run in the third quarter was his longest run of the season. Pennington’s 26 yards rushing (four carries) are a new career high (previous high: 22 yards rushing – November 1, 2004, vs. Miami).

-Pennington’s 237 passing-yards raised his season total to 3195 yards in the air, surpassing his previous season-high of 3120 passing-yards.

-Mike Nugent’s 30 yard field goal with :14 left in the game, gave the Jets a 13-10 lead. The field goal was the first game-winning field goal of his career. The kick was also his 15th consecutive made field goal attempt. He has made 20 of his last 21.

-Nugent’s seven points (two field goals, one extra point) gives him 95 points on the season, eclipsing his total of 90 points in his rookie season (2005).

-RB Leon Washington’s 64-yard pass reception was the longest of his career. His 108-yard receiving led the team and is also a career best. Jerricho Cotchery’s 32-yard touchdown reception (11-80-5:22) was his sixth of the season, tying him with Laveranues Coles for the team lead in touchdown receptions. It was Cotchery’s fourth reception of the night and the 100th reception of his career.

-LB Victor Hobson’s sack of Cleo Lemon was good for a loss of three yards. It was Hobson’s sixth sack of the season.

-DE/LB Bryan Thomas’s sack of Cleo Lemon for a loss of six yards gives him 8.5 sacks on the season and the team lead.

-The first quarter sack by S Rashad Washington and Eric Barton was good for a loss of eight yards. It gives Barton 3.5 sacks for the season. It was Washington’s first ½ sack of the season, giving him 1.5 sacks in his career.

-For the second time this season, the Jets held their opponent scoreless for the first three quarters (9/10 at Tennessee). The 0-0 first half is the Jets second of the season (vs. Chicago, 11/9).

-Nugent’s fumble recovery in the first quarter was the first of his career.

-The 0-0 first quarter was the first for the Jets since November 19 vs. Chicago and the fourth for the Jets this year (9/10 at Tennessee, 10/15 vs. Miami, 11/12 at New England).

-B.J. Askew’s special teams tackle in the first half was the 68th of his career, moving him into fourth place on the Jets all-time list. Kenyatta Wright (2003-05) is third with 71.

Coach Eric Mangini will address the media tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets for all the latest NY Jets news!