Early Look: New York Jets

The New York Jets fared well in their season opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Chad Pennington appeared to be healthy, the defense played well, but the kicking game turned a potential blowout into a much closer contest. Pennington will need better protection and Nugent will need to get on track for the Jets to be ready in week 2.

Pennington Back To Normal

Sometimes, when baseball pitchers undergo reconstructive elbow surgery (a.k.a. Tommy John surgery), they find out that their fastballs have more velocity than they did before.

Could that explain what has happened to Chad Pennington? The Jets' quarterback's twice-repaired right shoulder suddenly didn't seem to be an issue on opening day, as Pennington zipped passes all over LP Field in the Jets' 23-16 victory over the Titans. Not only did Pennington take several hard hits and get up each time, but he also demonstrated poise, touch, timing and the arm strength his critics said he didn't have anymore. His 319-yard passing performance was the second-best of his pro career as he completed 24 of 33 attempts for two touchdowns with no interceptions.

If Pennington can recapture anything resembling his 2002 form, the Jets' offense will have the potential to be much better than anyone thought. The next game will be an even sterner test, as the Patriots (1-0) will come to Giants Stadium. Since a three touchdown, no interception performance against New England in his first matchup with the Patriots, Pennington has thrown seven interceptions and only one touchdown against Bill Belichick & Co.

Of course, Pennington wasn't thinking about that after the Tennessee game. And as usual, he preferred to talk about the team rather than himself.

"I think the words for our team are perseverance and facing adversity," Pennington said. "It's really easy to fold when you face that adversity on the road. We didn't fold and that's what I'm most proud of."

"I'm just glad he showed he's back," said wideout Laveranues Coles, who had eight receptions, including catches for 41 and 38 yards. His 38-yard grab came on a perfectly-thrown ball from Pennington and set up the Jets' winning touchdown.

"The mechanics were excellent, the tempo was excellent, and I'm proud that he was poised," Mangini said of Pennington's direction of the game-winning drive, a 57-yard excursion in seven plays.

Pennington, who originally is from Knoxville, Tenn., had plenty of family and friends in the stands in Nashville.

"It's just truly a blessing to be able to come out here and play this game," he said. "It's an honor to play this game, and that's the way I look at it."

Especially when it was questioned whether he could bounce back from two shoulder surgeries. Pennington was awarded a game ball and he said he planned to give it to his father Elwood, who is recovering from a heart attack suffered last month.

New York Jets kicker Mike Nugent (1) stands on the field after missing a 30-yard field goal-attempt against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006, in Nashville, Tenn. In addition to the 30-yard miss, Nugent also missed an extra point and a 34-yard field goal attempt in the Jets' 23-16 win. (AP Photo/ John Russell)

Kicker Woes

Had Mike Nugent not had a bad day, the Jets might have won fairly comfortably. Instead, the second-year kicker's woes inadvertently pushed the Jets to a stirring 23-16 win over Tennessee in the season opener for both teams.

The Jets led 16-0 in the fourth quarter, thanks mostly to a 1-yard scoring run by Kevan Barlow and Chad Pennington's 8-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery. But Nugent's missed point after attempt, as well as missed field-goal attempts from 34 and 30 yards, left the door open for a Tennessee comeback.

Two short touchdown runs by Travis Henry, the second set up by a strip sack of Pennington at the New York 1, plus a pair of two-point conversions enabled the Titans to tie the score at 16. But Pennington directed a 57-yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker, putting the Jets ahead again.

Tennessee's last chance ended on the Jets' 8 when Kerry Collins threw incomplete on fourth down with 35 seconds remaining.


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