TITANS 10 - JETS 6
By Bob Bonett
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 23rd, 2007
“Another tough one.”
Those were the first words head coach Eric Mangini could muster following New York’s 12th loss of the season, a poorly-played contest against playoff-hopeful Tennessee, 10-6.
The problems were widespread for Gang Green from the onset. While QB Chad Pennington, who garnered the start in favor of injured QB Kellen Clemens, managed to orchestrate solid drives, he continuously was unable to put points on the scoreboard.
The running game, led by Thomas Jones, never gained any momentum. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave Jones ample opportunity to make plays happen, giving the ball to the former Bear 21 times, but despite eclipsing 1000 yards—in perhaps the quietest fashion ever—the off-season acquisition could only accumulate 58 yards.
Yet, the overarching problem for New York that led to the numerous struggles in the backfield and behind center was the offensive line. A problem spot for New York all year, perhaps in a form of a tryout, the Gang Green coaching staff, utilized eight offensive lineman against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. And perhaps with the exception of C Nick Mangold, each member of the corps failed to deliver any sort of an admirable performance.
Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, matched up against OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson and TE Chris Baker for much of the game, had 11 tackles and three sacks; Tony Brown, Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy all added sacks on their own; and in the game’s crucial final drive, Pennington never had time to find receivers, and give the team an opportunity to pull of their fourth win of the year.
Despite the glaring problems on the offensive line, though, Ferguson refused to allot any excuses.
“We practice with everyone we play with, so it’s just a matter of knowing who’s in there, and playing with chemistry,” he said. “We are a firm force, we don’t allow adversity to break us down, and we will continue to fight, it doesn’t matter the odds.”
Regardless of the post-game rallying cry by the second-year offensive lineman, it was inarguably another vast disappointment for Gang Green. Much of the game, the team had opportunities to convert; an interception was thrown by Pennington in the end zone, though, K Mike Nugent missed a field goal, even a coaching decision to go for a touchdown on fourth down was debatable.
And with a team that is out of the playoff picture like the Jets, sometimes people like to pick out the positives, such as WR Jerricho Cotchery’s 150-plus yards of receiving putting him over 1000 yards, or LB David Harris’ efforts on the defensive side of the ball, even the fact that QB Vince Young was held in check the entire afternoon.
The fact of the matter was, though, that the team blew another opportunity. Tennessee clearly did not win the game with 10 points—the Jets lost it, failing to execute and being completely overmatched in the trenches.
And now, with only one week left in the season, the questions keep on building in New York. Mangini was once again hazy on who would start against the Chiefs next week; Pennington eerily spoke about perhaps walking off the field as the Jets’ quarterback for the final time; and the young players that were supposed to spell success in the future for New York, specifically on the offensive side—Clemens, Ferguson, etc.—are all big question marks leading in to the off-season.
It will be interesting to see if anything is salvaged from 2007 next Sunday.
Where was McCareins?
One Jet who has drawn the ire of fans all year is WR Justin McCareins, a multi-millionaire dollar hit on the cap who has made costly drops throughout the season and been absent from the box score when he is needed. On Sunday, with Coles, the team’s deep threat, out of action, McCareins needed to step up against his former team and make key catches. However, instead, the wideout managed only two receptions for nine yards.
On the season, McCareins has just 17 receptions for 223 yards, both career lows with the exception of his rookie season.
Coles hints at change of scenery
When Coles was made inactive prior to the contest, fans and media alike speculated that No. 87 had played his final game in green and white. New York’s star wide receiver acknowledged that as a possibility following the contest, taking a shot at a former Jets in the process.
”We haven’t got to that point [of talking about next year] yet, but when the time comes I’m sure we’ll all sit down and talk about it. They have their opinion, I have mine. I’m sure both sides will have their arguments, and it will be something that won’t get blown out of proportion, because I never want to handle the situation the way Pete Kendall did. I want to reach something away from negativity; I do feel like this is something we’ll get done.”
Coles continued to say he wants to stay with the Jets, but admitted that a factor in his desire will be whether or not his good friend, Pennington, is still a member of Gang Green next season.
Personnel move of the day: Kapinos in, Graham out
A noticeable move prior to the game was making P Ben Graham inactive for the contest in favor of rookie punter Jeremy Kapinos. Mangini said that the move was made to both try out Kapinos and give New York a better opportunity to win.
“That was a coaching decision; I wanted to give Kapinos a chance to see what he could do,” Mangini said. “Just evaluating it through the week I thought he’d give us the best chance [in the punting game].”
The rookie averaged just over 41 yards for his five punts.
Herm’s coming to town
Ensuring that the final game of the season will not be devoid of storylines, Gang Green will be welcoming former head coach Herm Edwards and the Kansas City Chiefs to the Meadowlands next Sunday in the season finale.
Like the Jets, Kansas City has had quite a disappointing season, specifically of late—after starting 4-3, the Chiefs have dropped eight straight games.
Coles mentioned earlier in the week that he was excited to see Edwards for the first time in a few years—Pennington also addressed his former coach’s homecoming in the post-game press conference.
“It’ll be good to see him; I haven’t seen him in a long time,” Pennington said. “You have two teams both struggling this year; I imagine it’s going to be a really physical, interesting game because when you’re in the situation both teams are in, you want to end the season with a win.”
Kansas City has scored 216 points this year—second worst in the NFL, four points ahead of San Francisco.
Pennington completed 26 of 32 passes for 264 yards.
Jones continued to be held out of the end zone, and only averaged 2.8 yards per carry.
McCareins, Jones and Washington combined for seven catches—for only 16 yards.
Sione Pouha, who has seen action in relief of DeWayne Robertson, had 8 tackles, all solo, in the effort.
Washington’s long kick return was 26 yards, and his lone punt return was a 15 yarder.
Grading the Jets
Pennington’s stat line read the same it has all year. His completion percentage was through the roof, his quarterback rating was above average, he threw for good yardage, and he could not manage to avoid the costly couple of interceptions.
Cotchery had a terrific day without a doubt, while Jones and Washington were eliminated completely for the game.
And again, a red zone embarrassment for Gang Green.
High marks for the Jets’ defense again today, as has been the case since the midseason bye week. Harris had the forced fumble and a sack, Coleman played well at defensive end, Barrett had the key interception—the 13th consecutive week New York has picked off a pass—and as required, Young was kept in the pocket, limited to just one rushing yard the entire contest.
As mentioned above, Kapinos performed well in his first start with the Jets, averaging over 40 yards per punt, and pegging the Titans inside the 20-yard line twice. However, Nugent missed a field goal, the team failed to convert on an extra point, and Washington was removed entirely from the picture by a terrific Tennessee game plan.
It is embarrassing when the quarterback of the team mentions in the post-game press conference that Mangini and the rest of the coaching staff were “experimenting” and “testing out” guys like Turner and Montgomery throughout the game. Granted, the season is lost for the Jets, but how can you grade a staff highly at all that uses a late-season game with playoff implications as a litmus test for 2008.
Another week, another disappointing loss that the Jets handed away. Nothing positive can be taken from this effort, from the pre-game loss of Coles, to the post-game insinuations that Pennington and LC are probably headed out of town, and of course, the embarrassing 60 minutes that occurred in between.