Courtesy of an 0-4 start and a defense that didn't show up until the latter half of the season, Jets coach Herman Edwards finds himself out of the playoffs for the first time as a head coach and for only the third time since his NFL coaching career began in 1990 for Kansas City. He also finds himself still winding down from an emotional speech he gave to the team Saturday night that was certainly part of the Jets' spirited play in the 6-0 win over Pittsburgh in a snow-covered Meadowlands.
Edwards was ticked off then at the Jets having to rely on luck and the help of other teams to make the playoffs and he reiterated that point Monday.
"Horseshoes, leprechauns and all that don't work. I don't believe in that," Edwards said. "You've got to go earn it; got to win it, do it on your own. (You) can't count on other people to do your job for you. That's the way it goes. (It's) kind of a sore subject for me. I don't want to get into that one again. I had that speech already."
Asked if this was his toughest year in football, Edwards said he's had a few worse ones. Such as 1978, Edwards' second year as a player in Philadelphia, when his father died. There was also 1996, Edwards' first year as a defensive backs coach with Tampa Bay, when the Buccaneers started 0-5 and won just one of their first nine games.
The 2003 season hasn't quite hit Edwards yet. He knows the playoffs are out of reach but Edwards said it would be a few more weeks until the Jets' future this season makes a full impact.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Edwards said. "It won't sink in until we're not practicing in January. All the teams that are vying to be a champion are practicing in January. That's when it will hit."
That's when he'll really know the season's over.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--LB Sam Cowart missed Sunday's game against Pittsburgh with a left thigh contusion but started this week as probable for Saturday night's game against New England.
--RB Curtis Martin became only the second player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 in his first nine seasons with 174 yards against the Steelers on Sunday. Barry Sanders was the other, doing it in his first 10 seasons. Martin, who has 1,127 yards this season, also passed former Jet John Riggins for 11th place on the NFL's career rushing list with 11,488 career yards.
--LB Marvin Jones had a strong game against the Steelers, particularly against the run. He finished with seven tackles (six solo) and had a key takedown of Steelers RB Amos Zereoue on a 1st-and-goal at the 3 in the fourth quarter. It is increasingly looking like if the Jets keep one of their starting linebackers next season, it will be Jones rather than Sam Cowart.
--WR Santana Moss had a tough time playing in his first game in the snow despite a team high-five catches for 44 yards against Pittsburgh. Wide open on one play that could have resulted in a long catch-and run for a score, Moss slipped and fell as the ball sailed over him. He also dropped one ball and overran the end zone on another play, possibly disoriented because the yard markings were hidden under the snow.
--WR Wayne Chrebet, on the injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome, has resumed his workouts and is expected to be ready for training camp next year. Coach Herman Edwards said Chrebet, who had been suffering from headaches and malaise since suffering a concussion against the Giants on Nov. 2, was feeling much better.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Running out there in that snow is almost like running in quicksand. By the time you end up breaking through the line and break out, you're ready to say, "tackle me. I just came back to the sideline and said, "I'm sorry I couldn't do it.'" -- Jets RB Curtis Martin said about getting dragged down at the Steelers 10 at the end of his 56-yard run against the Steelers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. STEELERS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Chad Pennington completed 12-of-18 passes in the first half, including nine straight. That was a pretty good showing considering the weather. He hit 8-of-11 on third downs for the game, converting for five first downs. No touchdowns but in a possession game like this one it was almost more important that Pennington had no interceptions either.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Maybe it should snow all the time for Curtis Martin, who produced the third best game of his career with 174 yards rushing in the slush. The only sticking point in this area is: When Curtis Martin needed a blow after his 56-yard run to the Pittsburgh 10, why did the Jets opt to hand the ball off to LaMont Jordan, who hadn't carried the ball in almost a month because of a cast on his hand, rather than fullback Jerald Sowell? Jordan fumbled the ball away on the exchange to end a scoring chance for the Jets but Pittsburgh was unable to capitalize on it.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox created enough problems for himself with his inaccurate throws in the red zone and the snow had all his receivers slipping. Ray Mickens was key with four passes defended and nearly had a few interceptions, including one of Maddox in the end zone that was erased on a roughing the passer penalty.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- Jerome Bettis had a couple of key runs early but the Jets did a fairly good job of bottling him and Amos Zereoue up. That success was important because it forced the Steelers to throw in the red zone under poor weather conditions. It added up to a shutout.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Doug Brien hit two field goals, including a 41-yarder, in the snow while Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed missed both of his attempts. Punter Dan Stryzinski kept the Steelers pinned back too, with four of his seven punts landing inside the 20 - also not an easy task considering the weather.
COACHING: A -- Herman Edwards gave the Jets a passionate speech the night before that hit most of the players hard, especially on defense. Edwards - who also berated the Jets during the week for being "out-physicalized" last Sunday in a 17-6 loss at Buffalo - stressed to players that clinging to just a thin mathematical chance of making the postseason was as frustrating to him as it was to them. Granted, the win by Denver later that night ended that slim chance but the speech worked.
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