Chargers TE Antonio Gates beats Jets rookie CB Dwight Lowery for a TD during San Diego's 48-29 win on Monday Night.
Heading into tonight's matchup with the San Diego Chargers, Eric Mangini heard the critics. Even with the fragile-armed, soft-tossing Chad Pennington jettisoned out of town and replaced by the legendary gunslinger Brett Favre, the New York Jets' offense had met its match in the season's first two games. The revamped unit was mired in mediocrity, due in large part to conservative play-calling. Favre had thrown just 48 passes through the first two weeks and had the ball taken out of his hands as he neared the Patriots' goal line in last week's loss. Suddenly, the hottest question in New York became, 'when would Mangini allow Brett to be Brett?'
The Chargers ranked 31st in pass defense and had allowed an average of 31 points and 437 yards in its two defeats (26-24 Carolina, 39-38 Denver) before tonight; numbers which would leave any hungry quarterback salivating. As expected, Mangini let Favre loose, but the result was an embarassing 48-29 defeat to the Chargers in front of an electric Qualcomm Stadium crowd and a national tv audience.
Favre (30-for-42, 271 yards, three TD, two INT) appeared rusty and out of sync with his offensive counterparts throughout the painful defeat. But when the curtains were closed on the night, it was the miscommunication between Favre and his receivers that proved costly.
After the Jets jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 3:33 into the game when cornerback David Barrett intercepted Philip Rivers' ill-advised throw, returning it 25-yards for a touchdown, the Jets' offense failed to capitalize. Following a 12-play, 53-yard drive that resulted in a Nate Kaeding 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3, the Jets' next two drives ended in similar fashion: With a turnover and a San Diego touchdown.
The first miscue came with 4:09 left in the first quarter as running back Thomas Jones took a handoff, veered left and was stripped of the football as linebacker Tim Dobbins pulled him to the ground. Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer scooped up the football and just five plays later, Rivers connected with fullback Mike Tolbert on a one-yard touchdown pass to give the Chargers a 10-7 lead.
While the Jets tried to rebound from the early turnover, Favre tried to force a ball into the flat for wide receiver Laveranues Coles on the next possession, but Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie jumped the route, intercepted Favre and returned the ball 52 yards for a touchdown. From then on, the Chargers, hungry for a win after an 0-2 start, did not look back.
"You can't have the turnovers, one for a touchdown, another one sets up really good field position. We can't do that and expect to win, especially on the road," Mangini said.
While four Jets turnovers helped the Chargers grab their first win, Mangini's biggest gamble proved costly in defeat. After Favre connected with Coles on a three-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to draw San Diego closer at 17-14, the Jets surprised the Chargers with an onside kick. Jay Feely's kick sailed high into the air and the Jets' Wallace Wright got a hand on the ball, but the Chargers ended up corralling the football.
With the ball on the Jets' 44-yard line, Rivers took advantage of the short field and connected with wide receiver Chris Chambers on a 27-yard touchdown grab, who found himself running freely through the Jets' secondary because of a communication error between Barrett and linebacker David Harris.
Mangini stood behind his gamble when faced his questions following the defeat.
"It was like any other decision, it's a good decision if it works," Mangini deadpanned. "It's something we felt good about at the time, we had the look that we wanted, we had the situation that we wanted...we just couldn't come down with it."
Tight end Antonio Gates added a six-yard touchdown eight minutes later, as the Jets watched a close contest quickly turn into a 31-14 blowout.
The offensive outburst left the battered Jets defense winded and demorilized and the offense scuffling for answers. But again, the second half featured much of the same. San Diego opened the half with a seven-play, 79-yard drive, capped off by a LaDainian Tomlinson (26 carries, 67 yards, two TD) two-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 38-14.
As the Chargers continued to pound the Jets defense with its ground game, gaining 107 yards on 35 carries, the Jets' offense failed to develop into any sort of rhythm.
The Jets recorded 308 total yards, many of which they piled up with the Chargers' defense sitting back in soft-coverage with the big lead. The game grew so out of reach for Gang Green that Mangini decided to rest the battered Favre for the team's final drive, allowing backup Kellen Clemens (3-for-5, 26 yards, one INT) to get some work. Favre grimmaced as he limped off the field after the game and later said that the team took X-rays on his left ankle. The results were negative.
The Jets took a pounding on the injury front as nose tackle Kris Jenkins left the game in the first quarter with a back injury. Mangini said he did not know the specifics of the injury, noting that he did not anticipate it being anything serious.
"Anytime you lose a player like Kris, it opens things up," Mangini said.
Favre, Receivers Still Searching for Common Ground
Favre knows the chemistry he developed over the last ten seasons with Packers wide receiver Donald Driver will go unmatched. During last Wednesday’s press conference, Favre explained that his chemistry with his new receivers “has gotten a lot better” but there was still work to do. Early in tonight’s game, Favre’s sentiments rang true. With the Jets backed into their own territory late in the first quarter, Favre fired a pass out to the left sideline for Jones. While Favre expected Jones to cut the pattern short, Jones continued on a go-route. The result? Incomplete pass.
Midway through the second quarter, the miscommunication proved more costly for Gang Green. With the Jets driving, Favre fired a pass intended for Jerricho Cotchery. While Cotchery cut inside on his route, Favre threw the ball outside, resulting in an interception by safety Eric Weddle.
Stuckey Finding a Connection with Brett
While Favre continues to search for a connection with Coles, wide receiver Chansi Stuckey has slowly developed into one of Favre's favorite targets. After recording a touchdown in each of the Jets' first two games, Stuckey continued his success by grabbing a four-yard touchdown strike early in the fourth quarter. Stuckey recorded six catches for 42 yards on the night.
Barrett’s 25-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first touchdown of his nine-year career. He was the first Jet to record a “pick-six” since linebacker Mark Brown did so in a 30-26 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 1, 2006.
Rookie linebacker Vernon Gholston recorded his first NFL tackle late in the third quarter when he took down Chargers tight end Brandon Manumaleuna after a five-yard completion.
Rookie tight end Dustin Keller recorded his first NFL touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard pass from Favre.
MNF Historically Unkind to Jets
Tonight's loss moved the Jets to 17-22 all-time on Monday Night Football.
For the Jets, quarterback Erik Ainge, defensive end Kareem Brown, wide receiver David Clowney, punter Reggie Hodges, cornerback Justin Miller, kicker Mike Nugent, quarterback Brett Ratliff and offensive tackle Robert Turner were inactive.
For the Chargers, offensive tackle Corey Clark, guard Kynan Forney, center Nick Hardwick, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, cornerback DeJuan Tribble, linebacker Anthony Waters, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and tight end Kris Wilson were inactive
Barrett left the game momentarily early in the second quarter with a “shoulder” injury, while Jenkins left the game early in the first quarter with a "back" injury and did not return. Mangini said he did not know the specifics of the injuries. Favre had X-rays taken on his left ankle, but the results were negative. He said the injury occurred in the third quarter.
For the Chargers, defensive end Luis Castillo (knee) walked off the field in the second quarter after running into a block by Jones. Castillo sat on the field for several minutes, but was later able to walk off under his own power.
Grading the Jets
While the Jets scored 29 points in defeat, much of the offense came late in the fourth, with the team trailing by multiple scores. Favre continues to search for that connection with his wideouts, and on multiple instances, communication errors led to costly interceptions. Also, four turnovers never result into winning football.
After Barrett began the night with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Jets' defense slowly plummeted. Sure the loss of Jenkins hurt, but there is never an excuse for allowing 48 points. Rivers (19-for-25, 250 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) threw the ball at ease as the Jets' pass rush was unable to develop any sort of pressure.
If there was any silver lining to take out of the embarrassing defeat, it was the return game. Leon Washington averaged 38 yards on five returns, highlighted by a 94-yard return. Cotchery also returned a kick 54 yards. Kicker Jay Feely was perfect on the night, connecting on a 32-yard field goal, while punter Ben Graham placed both of his punts inside the Chargers' 20-yard line. The lone error came from the unit's inability to pick up the surprise second quarter onside kick.
It was time for the Jets' coaching staff to finally let Favre loose, but there needs to be a balance within the offense. The Jets understandably were forced to go pass-heavy once they fell behind multiple scores, but it was inexcusable to abandon the run so early. Also, Mangini's decision to call an onside kick turned into a costly error. The Jets had momentum following the touchdown, so why hand the explosive Chargers' offense a short field to work with?