After enduring a week of media criticism that questioned his arm strength and ability to move the offense into the end zone, Pennington threw three touchdown passes – two to wide receiver Santana Moss -- to lift the Jets to a 37-14 thrashing of the Seattle Seahawks Sunday at the Meadowlands. The victory improved the Jets to 10-4 – only the fourth time in franchise history they have achieved such a mark – and kept them in the driver's seat in the still murky AFC Wild Card picture.
Pennington completed 18 of 24 attempts for 253 yards and a quarterback rating of 148.1. Just one week ago, the Jets quarterback managed only a 33.6 rating during his worst outing of the season in a losing effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"For the first time in a long time we set the tempo," Pennington said. "We kept it flowing. The big thing was to not let up."
Gang Green rolled up a season-high 482 offensive yards, as running back Curtis Martin gained 134 of the team's 229 rushing yards and scored on second quarter touchdown runs of one and three yards. LaMont Jordan chipped in with 84. Both Martin and Jordan averaged 5.6 yards per carry through gaping holes blasted through the Seahawks' front seven by the Jets offensive line, led by center Kevin Mawae and guard Pete Kendall.
And for the seventh time this season, the Jets defense held an opponent scoreless in the second half. Linebacker Eric Barton had a huge game, leading Gang Green with 11 tackles, a sack, interception, fumble recovery and forced fumble – the latter coming on the final play of a critical goal-line stand in the third quarter.
Trailing the Jets 30-14, following a 7-yard TD pass from Pennington to Moss on the preceding drive, Seattle drove to the Gang Green 1-yard line.
On second down, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was tackled for no gain by Jets tackle Jason Ferguson. Then running back Shaun Alexander was stopped cold on a run up the middle by Ferguson and defensive end Bryan Thomas. On fourth down, Seattle eschewed the chip-shot field goal. Alexander took the ball around right end – but was belted by Barton. The ball came loose and was recovered by defensive end Shaun Ellis in the end zone for a touchback.
"Eric came over the top…and I just tried to make [Alexander] cut back inside", linebacker Mark Brown explained. "Eric laid the wood on him and the ball popped out and Shaun fell on it."
The play, for all intents and purposes, deflated Seattle, who fell to 7-7 in their sloppy quest for the NFC West crown. Brown said he noticed the look of angst in the Seahawks' eyes when they failed to score so close to the Jets' end zone.
"To get all the way down to the one…That's a long way to go to get no points," Brown noted. "It takes the edge out of you, and that was a big part of the game. In the first half we were on our heels, they were driving the ball down the field, making big plays and we weren't doing much. In the second half we stepped it up."
Did they ever. In the final two quarters the Jets held Seattle to 29 yards rushing and 49 through the air. Overall the Seahawks managed 275 net yards (88 rushing and 187 passing). Alexander, who entered game as the NFL's No 2 rusher with 1,385 yards, was held to 77 on 19 carries.
"Obviously, it was a game of emotion for us," Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. "This game couldn't come fast enough for us – for our players and for our coaches when we think about what happened to us last week against Pittsburgh. We needed to play a game like this. A total, total game. I thought we functioned well in all phases, especially in the second half. That is probably the best we played all season, thus far…against a good football team."
The Seahawks took a 7-3 lead in the first quarter on Hasselbeck's 12-yard TD pass to Jerry Rice, who made a spectacular one-handed grab in the right corner of the end zone over cornerback Terrell Buckley. The Jets opened the scoring on Doug Brien's 21-yard field goal – but it certainly wasn't the veteran kicker's best game, as he missed an extra point and was wide left on a 30-yard FG attempt in the fourth quarter.
The Jets struck back following Rice's touchdown, going 75 yards in 10 plays and hitting pay dirt on Martin's 1-yard run to begin the second quarter. Key plays were Pennington's 17-yard pass to Moss to open the drive and a 34-yard screen to fullback Jerald Sowell that brought the ball to the Seattle 6-yard line. Brien's PAT put Gang Green up, 10-7 – and they would not trail again.
They scored again on their subsequent possession, covering 69 yards in eight plays and capped by Martin's 3-yard TD run over right tackle, for a 17-7 advantage with 7:44 remaining until halftime.
Seattle promptly turned the ball over, as Barton intercepted Hasselbeck's pass for tight end Itula Mili at the Jets' 39 and returned the ball to the 46.
That's when the Moss and Pennington Show took center stage. The duo first hooked up on a 14-yard completion to the Seahawks' 32-yard line. One play later, Pennington found Moss in the middle of the field where the wide receiver shook off safety Ken Hamlin and raced into the end zone for a 24-7 Jets' lead.
Moss, who had complained earlier in the week about not having a bigger role in the offense, had a huge, big-play role on Sunday. Edwards noted that the Jets' game plan was to get Moss and other skill players -- like Jordan, who had only three carries for 10 yards last week – into the "flow" of the game early.
Seattle closed the scoring in the first half on Hasselbeck's 6-yard TD pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens to cut Gang Green's lead to 24-14 at intermission.
The Jets produced three big back-to-back plays on their first drive of the second half to set up Pennington's 7-yard TD pass to Moss. Pennington found Sowell for 14 yards and competed a 21-yard strike to WR Justin McCareins to set the stage for a trick play that totally caught Seattle off guard. With a first down at the Seahawks' 43, Pennington lined up at wide receiver while Jordan took a direct snap from center and raced 33 yards around right end. Pennington's 7-yard pass to Moss gave the Jets a 30-14 advantage with 9:27 left in the third quarter.
"We worked on that in practice," Edwards said of Jordan's trick play. "It's a pretty good play. The one thing we do know, we weren't going to throw a pass to Chad."
Barton's recovery of a Hasselbeck fumble at the Seattle 23-yard line -- caused by an Ellis sack -- led to the Jets' final score of the afternoon early in the fourth quarter as McCareins hauled in a 5-yard pass from Pennington.
Sowell (five catches for 83 yards) and Moss (five for 79) led all receivers as Pennington spread the ball around to seven different teammates.
Martin's two touchdown runs gave him 12 for the season, setting a new franchise record that surpasses the 11 of Emerson Boozer (1972), Brad Baxter (1991) and Johnny Hector (1987). He also set the Jets' mark for career rushing touchdowns with 53.
Next Sunday, with a playoff berth in their sights, the Jets host the AFC East-leading New England Patriots in the home finale.
"I think this is a good game to go into New England with," Brown said. "It gives us some momentum. The defense played good together in the second half and we just hope to take that over to next week."
Jets ground Seahawks
Jets Insider Top Stories
Insider tidbits: 3 observations from Sept. 28Injuries, a new tight end and will whether or not Russell Wilson can play affect the Jets gameplan and preparation?
Jets Insider6:33 PM
Jets Officially Release CB MillinerDee Milliner's three-year tenure with the New York Jets has officially come to an end myriad with injuries and unfulfilled expectations
Jets Insider3:40 PM
HELP! Some Jets are M.I.A.New York has been struggling as of late and it doesn't help that some of their key players have been M.I.A.
Jets Insider11:21 AM
Jets Need Change of GameplanThe Jets do not need Ryan Fitzpatrick to be pass-happy to succeed. They can rely on a solid run game with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.
Jets InsiderYesterday at 9:01 PM
3 Adjustments Jets Should ConsiderThree adjustments the Jets should consider implementing from this point forward.
Jets InsiderYesterday at 2:05 PM