By David Fletcher
Jets Staff Writer
December 31st, 2006
Jets head coach Eric Mangini takes a well deserved Gatorade bath as the Jets beat Oakland 23-3 and clinch a playoff berth.
Jets head coach Eric Mangini takes a well deserved Gatorade bath as the Jets beat Oakland 23-3 and clinch a playoff berth.
Playoff Bound: In his first year as head coach of the New York Jets, 35 year-old Eric Mangini has done what few believed possible: he’s led Gang Green to the postseason. Armed with a red-hot kicker, a resurgent defense, and a quarterback on a mission, Mangini marched his squad straight through the last-place Raiders and into the playoffs.

After the victory, Jets players celebrated in the locker room by saying the one word they’d been banned from using all season long: playoffs.

“Now we can talk about playoffs,” joked an ecstatic Kerry Rhodes. The Jets’ safety, who finished the day with four solo-tackles and a sack, was far from done. “Can we say playoffs now?” he asked reporters, answering his own question before anyone could chime in by nodding “yes.” Before answering any questions, Rhodes paused one last time, smiled, and said dropped one final, emphatic p-word for all present to hear.

The Jets began their regular-season finale in all-too-typical form, with K Mike Nugent struggling on the opening-kickoff, giving the Raiders excellent field position. Gang Green’s defense came up huge, however, forcing the Raiders to go three-and-out and punt it away.

New York followed with a three-and-out of its own after mammoth Oakland DT Warren Sapp sacked QB Chad Pennington on third down. Sapp, a 12-year veteran of the NFL, showed plenty of talent despite his age and isn’t finished playing football yet. “There is a little more tread on these tires,” he informed reporters after the game.

On the following Oakland possession, Raiders QB Aaron Brooks completed a third-down pass to WR Johnnie Morant for first-down yardage. However, veteran-CB David Barrett ripped the ball away as Morant battled for extra yardage and CB Hank Poteat recovered the loose ball. Barrett got the start on Sunday for CB Andre Dyson, who was out with an injury to his knee.

The Jets capitalized on the turnover, going 44 yards on eight plays for the score. TE Chris Baker got the one-yard touchdown catch, his fourth touchdown this season, but the Jets’ running attack ate up the majority of the yards. The biggest play of the drive was a 20-yard run by WR Brad Smith on a reverse. WR Laveranues Coles, who had an unimpressive day catching the ball, threw an excellent block to extend the run.

Nugent’s next kickoff was even worse, only making it to the Raiders’ 23-yard line, but the Jets defense stepped up yet again and held Oakland to a field goal on the drive..

Just over two minutes before halftime, Jets rookie-S Eric Smith partially blocked punt by Oakland to give his team great field position to run a two-minute drill. The Jets moved down the field with relative ease, but a third down-pass to WR Jerricho Cotchery soared high and out of the endzone, forcing a 35-yard field goal-attempt by Nugent, which he nailed.

After playing a respectable first half and securing a modest 10-3 lead going into intermission, the Jets came out soaring in the third quarter. Nugent hit a 22-yard field goal to cap off a long opening drive, and rookie-RB Leon Washington put the icing on the cake by adding a 15-yard rushing touchdown, his fourth rushing-touchdown of the season.

The Jets’ defense played a major role in the team’s third quarter dominance as well. Unable to get anything going against the stingy defensive unit, Oakland wound up holding possession for an anemic 3:57 in the quarter. The Jets even managed to figure out the Raiders’ ground attack, which had been burning them all game, shutting them down with a big stand on fourth-and-inches.

Nugent added a third field goal in the fourth quarter - his 18th consecutive successful attempt – to put the Jets up by 20 points, and that ended the day’s scoring for both squads.

With the game clock under one minute and the Jets’ lead insurmountable, Mangini – trying his hardest to suppress a smile – got his first Gatorade bath as an NFL coach, much to the delight of the die-hards who stayed to watch the final moments of the rout.

Now, with a road-playoff game looming against either the Patriots or Colts, the 10-6 Jets are prepared to go back to the drawing board and approach their first playoff game in two years as any other game.

”We’re going to prepare, focus on the details, and go in there ready to play,” said WR Justin McCareins of the upcoming postseason game – a mantra that Mangini has been preaching every day this season.

Veteran-G Pete Kendall, who is nearly as old as Mangini, echoed his message as always. However, he was noticeably thrilled to be able to use the word “playoffs” for the first time this season.

As he got ready to leave from Giants Stadium, one reporter asked Kendall if there was any word he still couldn’t mention in the locker room. He smiled and then, referring to the Super Bowl, replied wryly, “I think it’s two words.”


-The Denver Broncos fell out of playoff contention by losing to the 49ers on Sunday, bumping the Jets up to the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. They will face the AFC East-champion New England Patriots in Foxboro next weekend for the wildcard round of the playoffs. The Jets beat the Patriots in Foxboro on November 12.

-K Mike Nugent has gone 16-for-16 on field goal-attempts since appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman on November 13. On the show, Letterman had Nugent kick football through the windows of a New York City building.

-Oakland secured its spot as the NFL’s worst team by losing to the Jets, with the previously 2-13 Detroit Lions upsetting the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

-Jets DL Bobby Hamilton, who was a member of the Raiders as recently as last season, recovered a fumble by his former team in the final quarter on Sunday. The fumble came on a sack by LB Eric Barton. Barton also recorded his 100th tackle of the season on the play.

-RB Leon Washington moved up to fourth on the Jets’ all-time list of most rushing-yards gained by a rookie running-back on Sunday, passing RBs Blair Thomas and Freeman McNeil.

-Chad Pennington’s 22 completions on Sunday gives him the second-most completions in a single season by a Jets quarterback with 313. QB Vinny Testaverde completed 328 passes for Gang Green in 2000, but his did so with over 100 more pass attempts than Pennington has this season.

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

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