QB Chad Pennington is sacked by Patriots LB Tully Banta-Cain during the Jets 37-16 playoff loss in Foxboro. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Rookie head coach Eric Mangini made 2006 a dream season for Jets fans. A team that was expected to finish around .500 at best suddenly found themselves at 10-6 and in the playoffs. However, Gang Green found the rival Patriots waiting in the Wild Card round, and New England quickly threw cold water all over the Jets Super Bowl dreams as the three-time Super Bowl champs proved to be more than the Jets could handle.
The Jets defense opened the game tentatively as Pats quarterback Tom Brady sat back and picked his targets. Though the run had been shut down, Brady marched New England down the field with the aerial attack in a 10-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run by running back Corey Dillon.
However, Gang Green would buckle down as they forced the Patriots to punt on their next drive, then on New England’s third drive forced a Corey Dillon fumble and recovered at the Pats 15. The Jets failed to move the ball though and were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal from kicker Mike Nugent.
The Jets held momentum as they took their first lead of the day with a huge 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chad Pennington to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery who raced down the sideline for the score.
Still, the Jets would head to the locker room trailing by seven after a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a Brady touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Graham gave the Patriots a 17-10 halftime lead.
The Jets came out punching in the third quarter and effectively moved the ball down field before the ball stalled out at the Patriots four, setting up a 21-yard Nugent field goal to close the gap to four halfway through the third quarter.
However, after a New England field goal stretched the lead back to seven, the Jets made what appeared to be a fatal mistake. As a screen play to Jerricho Cotchery was perfectly read and but dropped by linebacker Roosevelt Colvin, defensive tackle alertly scooped the ball up off the ground, realizing it was a backward pass. The pass was ruled a fumbled lateral and Wilfork returned the ball down to the Jets 15.
The Jets defense picked up Pennington and the offense by not allowing the Patriots a first down and holding them to just a field goal. Pennington and the offense would answer back with a field goal of their own by riding three big catches by tight end Chris Baker. Though it was clear the Jets offense was clicking, they still trailed by a touchdown.
The ensuing drive would be the back-breaker as New England ran off six minutes and 23 seconds with a 13-play touchdown drive to give them a 14-point lead with just over five minutes left in the game. Any prayer the Jets had left was erased when cornerback Asante Samuel picked off a Pennington pass of the Jets next drive and returned it for a touchdown to make it a blowout.
The Jets will now return to the drawing board, look at what went wrong and move on to a promising 2007 season. Still, it seems hard to believe Mangini and the Jets will take any consolation in a surprisingly strong 2006 effort and the knowledge that the Jets have the best salary cap situation in the league heading into next year.
-One wrinkle in the Patriots offense that seemed to catch the Jets off guard was the extensive use of wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. Gaffney, who caught just 11 passes for 142 yards all year long, had eight receptions for 104 yards to lead all receivers.
-Despite the lopsided score, the Jets did have some strong performances. Nugent made all three of his field goals in his postseason debut, Pennington threw for 300 yards on 23 of 40 passing with a touchdown and an interception, and Cotchery had four catches for a 100 yards with the one long touchdown. Still ultimately the Jets failure to effectively run the ball on a consistent basis and the failure to stop Tom Brady, running back Corey Dillon, and the Patriots offense proved to be the Jets downfall.
-Patriots coach Bill Belichick, normally not very emotional, was clearly satisfied with the victory. He even gave Mangini, his former protégé turned enemy, a big hug at midfield. He did his best Matt Light imitation as he blocked through photoagraphers to get to Mangini.
-CB Andre Dyson who injured his knee two weeks ago started the game but came out in the first quarter after he aggrivated the injury. "I wasn't going to miss this game," said Dyson afterwards. "It (the knee) didn't fee comfortable and there was some pain. It was very frustrating. I wanted to keep going but couldn't." CB David Barrett finsished the game for Dyson.
-A big play came in the second quarter when LB Jonathan Vilma had a clear shot of sacking Tom Brady from his blind side on 3rd and 6. However, instead of hitting Brady he instgead tried to swat at the ball and missed. Brady then broke upfield and scrambled 12 yards for a first down. The drive ended with a game tying FG.
-Today’s start was Chad Pennington’s fifth in the playoffs for the Jets, the most by a Jets quarterback in the Jets’ 9th postseason game. Starts by Jets quarterbacks in the postseason: Chad Pennington – 5; Richard Todd – 4; Joe Namath – 3; Pat Ryan – 3; Vinny Testaverde – 3; Ken O’Brien – 1.
-Chad Pennington’s 77-yard touchdown strike to Jerricho Cotchery was the longest offensive play in Jets’ postseason history, surpassing the 56-yard score from Pennington to Richie Anderson in the 2002 Wild Card Playoff Game against Indianapolis. Pennington and Cotchery also hooked up for the longest offensive play of the 2006 Jets’ season, a 71-yard touchdown pass in Week Two against the Patriots. The touchdown pass was Pennington’s seventh in the postseason, the most by a Jets’ quarterback.
-Chad Pennington’s third passing attempt of the afternoon moved him past Richard Todd for most pass attempts by a Jets quarterback in the postseason (previous high – 140). Pennington was already the all-time Jets playoff leader in completions and touchdown passes coming into this game.
-Pennington finished the game 23-for-40 for 300 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Pennington’s career postseason totals: 107 completions (1st all time Jets’ history), 178 attempts (1st), 1,166 yards (1st) and seven touchdowns (1st). The 300 yards passing for Pennington is a single-game playoff high.
-Chris Baker’s five receptions for 68 yards are playoff single-game highs for the tight end in his fifth playoff game. It’s also the second-most by a Jets tight end in a postseason game, trailing only Mickey Shuler (6-116-1) in the 1981 Wild Card game vs. Buffalo.
-Jerricho Cotchery became the 10th Jets’ player to record a 100-yard receiving game in the postseason, with his four receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. Cotchery’s 100 yards receiving tie him with Santana Moss for the ninth most receiving yards in Jets’ postseason history. Moss also had four receptions for 100 yards in the 2004 Divisional playoff game at San Diego.
-Laveranues Coles’ five receptions for 45 yards give him 21 postseason receptions for 234 yards. His 21 receptions place him fourth on the Jets all-time list. His 234 yards are eighth on the Jets all-time list.
-Mike Nugent kicked three field goals in three attempts, 28, 21, and 37 yards. He finished the game with 10 points. His three field goals ties a Jets’ postseason record held by Jim Turner in Super Bowl III and Pat Leahy in the 1982 playoffs vs. the Bengals.
-Pennington’s seven-yard rush in the first quarter was his longest career postseason rush, surpassing a six-yard run in the 2004 Wild Card Playoff Game at San Diego.
-The combined sack by Eric Barton and Bryan Thomas of Tom Brady in the third quarter was good for a loss of 12 yards. The half-sack was the first postseason sack of both their careers.
-Dewayne Robertson forced his first career postseason fumble, when he stripped RB Corey Dillon of the ball in the first quarter. The fumble was the first of Dillon’s career in 110 carries. The fumble was recovered by Hank Poteat, the first postseason fumble recovery of his career.
-After Chad Pennington came out for one play in the first quarter, Patrick Ramsey entered the game and completed his only pass to B.J. Askew for -1 yards.
-Justin Miller’s 136 yards on six returns are the second-most kickoff return yards in Jets’ postseason history, trailing only Chad Morton’s 154 yards in the 2001 Wild Card Game at Oakland.
-New England will head to San Diego to take on the Chargers in the divisional round next week.
The team no heads back to Hempstead where Coach Mangini will address the media for the final time this season tomorrow. Be sure to check back to JI for a complete report.