Chad throws game away

The Jets ruined their chance in playing as the spoilers against their division rival in dropping a 21-16 decision to the New England Patriots. With the loss, Gang Green will remain in last place and will suffer their first losing season under head coach Herman Edwards with their current record being 6-9.<BR><BR>

Things did not go well for New York right from the start as quarterback Chad Pennington threw an interception to linebacker Tedy Bruschi at the team's 35-yard line on the second play of the game. The mishap was turned into a New England touchdown as quarterback Tom Brady completed a 35-yard scoring strike to wide receiver David Givens to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead before even one minute had elapsed. The turnover was just one of many costly mistakes that Pennington would commit.

Early in the second quarter with the game tied at seven and the Jets backed up inside their own 20-yard line, Pennington and company were facing a third-and-two situation. But instead of playing it safe and running the ball for the first down, Pennington rolled out and threw another interception, this one being returned for a touchdown by defensive end Willie McGinest. The play was a momentum killer for Gang Green who had fought off the first interception by tying the game in the first quarter with an 83-yard touchdown drive. It was also an indication of what the outcome of this game was going to be with the Patriots accustomed to winning by taking advantage of turnovers in head coach Bill Belichick's system.

"Coach always tells us that turnovers need to mean points," McGinest said. "So that was a big one. So was Tedy's because we got points out of that one right away and we were up 7-0."

Later in the second, with the Jets facing a first-and-goal at the five with 31 seconds remaining in the half, Pennington failed to put his squad into the end zone as a five yard penalty backed them up to the ten yard line, and a one yard completion to Curtis Martin followed by an incomplete pass forced the team to settle for a Doug Brien field goal with just six seconds remaining. If the offense was better organized and Pennington had made better decisions, chances are Gang Green could have punched it in and tied it at 14 going into the halftime break.

The Patriots then stormed out in the second half with their lone scoring drive in the game to go up 21-10. The drive consisted of seven plays covering 60 yards and was completed with Brady throwing his second touchdown pass of the night to Givens from five yards out. But the Jets would not go away.

Gang Green countered New England's score by taking the ball down to the Patriots' 21-yard line. But once again, Pennington killed a scoring opportunity as he threw an errant pass right into the hands of cornerback Ty Law in the end zone. It was third-and-eight midway through the third quarter and another field goal would have narrowed the gap to 21-13. Pennington's unnecessary chance left New York without any points.

Pennington would come back, though, early in the fourth quarter as he rushed for his second touchdown of the night. The Jets opted to go for two but failed the conversion. There was still plenty of time left, however, and the Jets had the momentum. But it would not make a difference as their quarterback's horrendous night was not over.

Pennington would go on to squander another opportunity for a score as safety Rodney Harrison picked off his pass in New England territory. Then with 2:12 left in the game, and the offense getting another opportunity, Gang Green had one last chance to end the Patriots' ten game winning streak. They moved the ball up to their own 45 but would not go any further as Pennington threw his fifth interception of the game. Rookie safety Eugene Wilson committed the theft to put the nail in the coffin and conclude a spectacular performance by the Patriots' defense.

"Our DBs, the guys we've got, they've got to be right up on top of the league with interceptions," said Belichick. "They're playing really good back there in terms of getting their hands on the ball and reacting to it and intercepting it. The two by the linebackers were very big plays."

It was, by far, the Jets' franchise quarterback's worst game of his career. If Pennington did not commit those costly mistakes, the reality is that Gang Green would have run away with this game easily. But even though he clearly threw the game away, Pennington was assured that his teammates were still behind him.

"When you know you lost the game for your team and your teammates pat you on the back and give you words of encouragement, it means a lot," said Pennington. "This was a night where the finger was pointed at me, but they're not pointing fingers."

Despite the team not pointing fingers at him, Pennington must improve upon his performances of late as the last three weeks have been the worst stretch of games in his career. He has thrown six interceptions in the last three games against the Bills, Steelers, and the Pats and no touchdown passes. Throw in the fact that the team has scored just 28 points during the stretch, and it could be scary for one to think of what can happen if the rest of the league is catching up to Pennington with Gang Green relying so much on him.

New England, meanwhile, is riding high off of an eleven game winning streak and their current record standing at 13-2. They are currently in the lead for home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC over the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts. It has been a thrilling season for Belichick's team that started with a 31-0 shellacking from the division rival Buffalo Bills and the fight to the finishes against the Dolphins, Broncos, Texans, and Colts. They will get a chance to redeem themselves next week at home against the Bills and wrap up the home field advantage at 14-2.

The Jets will finish up on the road against the Miami Dolphins with hopes of ending the year at 7-9. The Dolphins are fighting for the final playoff spot in the AFC with the Broncos, Ravens, and Bengals and will most likely be desperate for a victory if they are still in the hunt after this weekend. Miami won the first contest against the Jets in the second game of the season in the Meadowlands by a score of 21-10.

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