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Jets-Chargers Game Review

By Nicholas Lecakes
Jets Insider.com Staff Correspondent
January 10th, 2005
Jets TE Anthony Becht, who has been invisible all season found a great time to show up on Saturday.
Jets TE Anthony Becht, who has been invisible all season found a great time to show up on Saturday.
SCORE:
Jets 20 - Chargers 17 OT

STARS OF THE GAME:

5. Jets K Doug Brien: One watching this game saw why special teams is such a huge factor in playoff football when yards, and points, are harder to come by and field position so important. Brien, who missed his first FG, then "double-doinked" his second attempt good, rebounded to kick the game winning 28 yard FG with five seconds left in overtime. This is after Charger rookie kicker Nate Kaeding pushed a potentially game-winning 40 yard field goal wide right. Brien, who three years ago lost confidence after a bad game that cost him his job with the Vikings, looked down after he missed the first FG, especially after his tough game last week vs. the Rams. However, in the end he rebounded well and kicked the game-winning FG that has made Jet nation happy for another week.

4. Jets LB Jonathan Vilma: Playing in his first playoff game, the rookie out of Miami who was voted the NFLís Defensive Rookie of the Year earlier in the week, came to play. Vilma recorded 13 total tackles and while he played in the nickel and dime defense for most of the game in order to get a better match-up on TE Antonio Gates, the Jets had only 6 men "in the box" to stop the run. The Chargers, seeing the nickel even on first down, tried to run the football. But the Jets' defensive line held their ground and ate up blocks for most of the game allowing LB's Vilma and Eric Barton free to shoot the gaps and make plays. Vilma showed his ability to slip blocks as the Jets held star RB Ladanian Tomlinson to 80 yards on 26 carries despite being outmanned up front Vilma had a solid game versus an explosive offense and was one of the main reasons why the Jets defense held up against the Bolts. 3. Jets WR's Santana Moss and Justin McCareins: The Jets' WR version of thunder and lightning came up big as they answered Herm Edwards' challenge of having his "skill guys" make bigger plays. The 6í 2Ē McCareins caught 8 balls for 87 yards as he worked the middle of the field catching numerous slant routes and square-in's despite tight coverage. McCareins fought off Charger CBís throughout the day. McCareins' work over the middle drew the Chargersí coverage closer to the middle opening up the deeper, outside routes Moss. Moss caught 4 passes for 100 yards, notably making the play of the game as he ran by two Chargers and caught a perfectly thrown Pennington pass for a 47 yard TD reception. Although he only had four catches, Moss made the big play that changed the tone of the game. If the Jets want to continue their playoff run, they will need McCareins to continue to work the middle of the field and will need Moss to make the big play, because the Jets will not be able to score points with the dink n' dunk offense against teams like the Steelers or the Patriots.

Chargers QB Drew Brees: Brees, playing in his first playoff game, showed why the Chargers may use the franchise tag to keep the soon-to-be free agent in San Diego as he completed 31-42 passes for 319 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT. Brees, who came into his own this year after 3 years of mediocrity, showed great poise and decision-making. Facing nickel and dime packages throughout the evening, while the Jets tried to shut down Antonio Gates, Brees showed he could make all the throws that a great QB makes, deftly moving the chains as he zipped throws into the Jets tight coverage. The Jets' zone took away the big play, but Brees took what the defense gave him as he orchestrated two time-consuming scoring drives by mainly using Erik Parker, who had 9 catches for 93 yards in the short and intermediate routes. Brees has truly evolved into an elite NFL QB.

1. QB Chad Pennington: Before the Jets took the field in overtime, Eric Barton asked Pennington to bail him out after he committed the costly Roughing the Passer penalty that gave the Chargers a 1st down, and eventually a tying TD. Pennington told him he had his back and in his second possession calmly drove the Jets 60 yards in 8 plays which set up Doug Brien's 28 yard game-winning field goal. Pennington, answered the questions of whether or not he could win the big game, as he went 23-33 for 279 yards and 2 TD's (One of which came off a beautiful audible that allowed TE Anthony Becht to catch a pass in the flat and walk into the endzone). Pennington, whose arm strength was criticized all week, completed a flawless 47 yard TD pass in the second quarter to a streaking Santana Moss. After the score he looked to the sideline and flexed his arm, showing that his arm was well and good. The Jets QB looked much more confident in the game, showing better footwork and more conviction and confidence in his passing game. Pennington showed the poise of a franchise QB as he perfectly executed Paul Hackett's gameplan while turning in one of the best games on a big stage.

GOAT OF THE GAME

Chargers K Nate Kaeding: No surprise here. The rookie kicker missed a very makeable 40 yard field goal wide right after the Chargers had drove down the field on their 2nd possession in overtime. Although Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer has been criticized for not going for a TD, or at least trying to get closer, Kaeding had made tougher kicks throughout the year and his Coach showed confidence in him to kick the FG but he flat out choked. Kaeding is going to be a star kicker for years to come, but he simply let his team down. If he had made the FG, the easy goat would have been Jets LB Eric Barton who did his best 1986 Mark Gastineau impression by roughing Drew Brees after the Jetsí impressive goal line stand with :11 remaining in the game.

BRIGHT SPOTS:

-Jets RB Curtis Martin did not have his best game as he only rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries but it was enough to keep the Charger defense honest, and he was also a factor in the passing game as he caught 4 balls for 47 yards.

-RB LaMont Jordan provided a spark as he had 7 carries for 50 yards and his 19 yard run got the Jets in FG range as it set up Doug Brien's game-winning field goal.

-The Jets' zone defense kept Gates in check for most of the day as they used a variety of double coverages, bracket coverages, and velcro zone looks to keep him covered. Among the guys who played well on him was rookie FS Erik Coleman. Coleman also made a great play as he tipped the pass that Reggie Tongue picked off before halftime.

-Rookie CB Derrick Strait played well as the nickelback as he had 2 tackles in run support that stopped Tomlinson short of the first down marker on 3rd and short.

-Jet Fan favorite TE Anthony Becht caught a ball, and walked into the endzone for a touchdown without tripping. Baby steps...

-The Jets' clock management continues to be a problem throughout the course of the game. Does anybody know what Dick Curl actually does?

PROBLEM SPOTS:

-As mentioned above, LB Eric Barton's Roughing the Passer penalty that turned a game clinching 4th down incompletion into a first down at the goal line. The miscue nearly cost the Jets the game. Barton plays aggressive but he has to contain himself. That wasn't the first time he roughed the passer and he is VERY lucky Pennington came to play.

-That fight between Herm Edwards and RB coach Bishop Harris shows fire and passion but there is no room for distractions like that on the sideline, especially in a playoff game.

-DT Dewayne Robertson made a boneheaded play by jumping offsides when he Chargers clearly came to the line on a 4th and short in the first half looking to draw the Jets offsides. Plays like that could prove more costly against teams like Pittsburgh and New England.

-Pro Bowl DE John Abraham selfishly put himself over the team but not playing in this game. Playoff football is supposedly what all NFL players live for, and he decides to sit out because he's concerned about his future. There's no place for a guy like Abraham on the Jets' roster.

-The Jets' clock management continues to be a problem throughout the course of the game. Does anybody know what Dick Curl actually does?

STAT OF THE GAME

Jets QB Chad Pennington: 22-33 279 yards 2 TD's 0 INT's

MY TWO CENTS:

QB Chad Pennington obviously hears the things critics say about him. "Pennington can't win the big game" and "Pennington has a noodle arm." He knows. The passionate Jets QB let his play do the talking as he gave his team their first road playoff win since 1982. Pennington lit up the Chargers despite most experts picking the home team and clearly showed that he can win the big game. I personally have been hard on Pennington. Some fans wanted to trade him or bench him. Pennington showed his poise, heart and his exceptional game management as he put the Jets on his shoulders and made the big throws needed to win this game. He showed that he is one of the best competitors in the NFL and why you should never count him out despite him not being able to throw the ball 70 yards or run a 4.4 40 yard dash. A harder test awaits Pennington and the Jets in Pittsburgh you can count the gutsy QB Pennington will be up to the task on Saturday and for years to come.

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