Jets Run Wild Over Houston

For the sixth time this season the New York Jets defense shut out an opponent in the second half -- and for the seventh time Curtis Martin rushed for more than 100 yards -- as Gang Green upped its record to 9-3 and moved one step closer to securing a playoff berth with a resounding 29-7 rubout of the Houston Texans Sunday at the Meadowlands. <BR><BR>

Sunday's game marked the return of quarterback Chad Pennington from a three-game absence due to a strained rotator cuff on his throwing arm. Pennington looked sharp. He directed three second-half touchdown drives and completed 20-of-27 passes for 155 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He was intercepted once.

With Pennington at the helm, the Jets tallied 360 total yards of offense – Gang Green's highest output since their Monday Night Football victory over the Miami Dolphins on November 1.

"I thought the offense rallied in the second half and got some things going," noted Jets head coach Herman Edwards. "I thought Chad played fairly well for his first start in about three weeks."

But it was the Jets' defense and ground game that ultimately snuffed the life out of the Texans. Martin accounted for 134 of his team's 210 rushing yards, while the Gang Green defense held Houston to only 83 yards on the ground and limited quarterback David Carr to 157 gross yards through the air.

Jets rookie safety Erik Coleman picked off a Carr pass in the fourth quarter to set up a score, defensive tackle James Reed recorded a pair of sacks, and defensive end Shaun Ellis and DT Dewayne Robertson netted six tackles each in helping to limit Houston running back Domanick Davis to only 52 yards on 17 carries.

On the negative side of the ledger, Jets defensive end John Abraham was forced to leave the game in the third quarter due to a sprained knee. His status was unknown at press time.

After a slow start that saw them trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Jets' special teams set up their go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter. On the Jets' first possession of the second half, Toby Gowin's punt was downed at the Houston 3-yard line by Jon McGraw. The Texans managed only three yards on three plays, forcing punter Chad Stanley deep into the end zone. The snap to Stanley hit an official for an apparent safety – but the play was ruled dead because the officials weren't ready. Houston then was called for holding, moving Stanley deeper into the end zone.

The Texans dodged that bullet – but the Jets had another in the chamber as Santana Moss returned Stanley's punt 46 yards to set up Martin's 4-yard TD run on first down to give Gang Green a 13-7 lead.

The Jets opened up a 19-7 advantage early in the fourth quarter on Pennington's 5-yard touchdown pass to Martin to culminate a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 6:10. The two-point conversion failed.

The drive was highlighted by Martin runs of 15 and 22 yards and Pennington's back-to-back completions of 13 and 15 yards to WR Justin McCareins . The Jets quarterback also used his legs to convert a third-and-eight from the Texans' 16-yard line with an 11-yard jaunt up the middle. After the run, Pennington leaped up and enthusiastically motioned with his arm to indicate the first-down conversion – much to the delight of the sellout crowd.

On Houston's ensuing drive, Carr's pass to tight end Billy Miller was picked off by Coleman who returned the ball 37 yards to the Texans' 40-yard line. Gang Green cashed in on the turnover on Pennington's 2-yard TD toss to tight end Anthony Becht, for a 26-7 lead that served as a cue for the capacity crowd of 77,875 to begin heading for the exits.

Doug Brien's 25-yard field goal – his third of the day – closed out the Jets' scoring.

Reserve running back LaMont Jordan enjoyed another stellar afternoon, rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries. Fullback Jerald Sowell had five catches for 38 yards, while McCareins hauled in four for 47.

"We were able to run the football," Edwards said. "And if you can run the football, obviously you can control the game. We ran for over 200 yards. That's a lot in the National Football League – when you run the ball for that much. Especially now when the weather gets bad, you want to be a team that can run the football. We ran the ball well. We defended the run well and then we got after the quarterback."

Houston held a 7-6 halftime lead on Davis' 2-yard run with 4:50 left in the second quarter. The Texans were given new life on the drive when Jets defensive back Terrell Buckley was flagged for illegal contact on Carr's incomplete third-down pass to wide receiver Derrick Armstrong. The Jets initially took a 6-0 lead in the second quarter on Brien field goals of 41 and 26 yards.

The Texans also proved to be their own worst enemy. An apparent 60-yard TD run by Davis in the first quarter was called back because of a holding penalty on tight end Mark Breuner. They also wasted a turnover late in the second quarter when cornerback Dunta Robinson intercepted a Pennington pass and returned it 20 yards to the Jets' 36. Houston returned the favor on its second play from scrimmage when Jets' CB David Barrett picked off Carr's toss to wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson led all receivers with seven catches for 125 yards.

Houston also wasted a golden opportunity after the Jets went ahead 13-7 in the third quarter. A 36-yard completion from Carr to Johnson gave the visitors a first down at the Jets' 37 yard line – but, on ensuing plays, Carr was called for intentional grounding and left guard Chester Pitts drew a flag for a personal foul.

With a post-season playoff bid becoming a reality, the Jets head into a showdown next Sunday at Heinz Field against the tough Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I think the playoffs are on everyone's mind, especially those of us who are in the hunt for it," Martin said. "There's a saying in the NFL. If you win in December, you play in January. So we've just got to keep winning."

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