Too Easy In The Big Easy

NEW ORLEANS: The Jets' first half in the Superdome on Sunday night was big and easy. Too easy, perhaps. But the visitors from the Northeast, despite making mistakes new and old to let the Saints back into the game, hung on with a whole lot of John Abraham and four more takeaways on defense and just enough offense for the 16-9 primetime victory.

I think we beat a good team and we've got five wins," said Edwards. "It doesn't do any good unless you win next week." But several Jets said this one counted a little bit more than, say, last week's win at Carolina.

"This says we can defeat somebody when we put our minds to it," said Abraham, who has 6.5 sacks on the season. "Everything seems to be coming together now. We're not making as many mistakes." "It's a real big win for us, especially against a team like that," said cornerback Aaron Glenn, who remains on a torrid pace especially in the second quarter of the season. "We had a chance to get this game out, to show on national TV that we're a pretty good team."

The troublesome part of the victory came with two minutes to play. The Jets first gave the ball back to the Saints after failing to gain an inch for the first down on a third-down run by Jerald Sowell and a fourth-down run by Curtis Martin at the Saints 45.

"I wanted our offense to make an inch, basically," said Edwards in defending the controversial call to go for it near midfield. "And if we don't make it, I wanted the defense to win the game. ... And we won the game, by the way."

However, to do that the defense had to stiffen one more time, as the Saints drove to the Jets 4 with no timeouts left and 1:06 to play.

Then a melee broke out when Jets safety Damien Robinson first grasped Brooks ' facemask, then New Orleans tackle Kyle Turley grasping Robinson's mask, then Turley costing the Saints 15 yards and getting ejected for pulling Robinson's helmet off and hurling it toward the end zone.

"Everything you can think of, that guy probably said," Robinson said of Turley's temper tantrum that cost the Saints' comeback attempt severely. "He was banging my head on the ground, then we was trying to drag me to the sideline."

"I saw him grab Damien's facemask and I said, `Oh, my goodness,' " said Steve Martin. "Then when he had [Robinson's] helmet, I said, `Lete him up so he can do whatever he's going to do." "I've never seen anything like that," said Abraham, who said Turley was calm and even complimentary toward him for most of the game. "I've seen people fight before, mostly in a pile, but not one guy go crazy like that."

When Abraham recorded his third sack of the game with 48 seconds to play and Testaverde kneeled twice, the end result was an inspiring if imperfect win against an NFL elite team in prime time that gave the Jets a 4-0 road record and positioned them decently for the second half of the season.

Surprisingly to Jets critics and possibly to the Saints, the Jets defense, ranked 24th overall and 31st against the run, rose up to contain Ricky Williams, the NFC's leading rusher, for 58 yards on 19 carries and harass quarterback Aaron Brooks into an ineffective 12-for-28, six-sack passing performance.

Brooks' chief tormentor was Abraham. The defensive end, vicitmizing fill-in left tackle Daryl Terrell and veteran right tackle Turley, sacked Brooks twice and forced Terrell into a false start. In part due to that pressure, Brooks threw red zone interceptions to Aaron Glenn and Mo Lewis and the Jets took a 13-0 lead into the locker room.

But their grip weakened ever so slightly even before intermission, when Edwards chose to have Vinny Testaverde kneel down and run out the final 41 seconds of the half from the Jets 33.

Then came the third quarter and the Saints climbed back into the picture. Rooke LaMont Jordan's forceful running _ he led all ballcarriers with 75 yards on seven carries _ couldn't prevent Curtis Martin's first lost fumble in 16 games and 315 carries at the Jets 26,and soon after the hosts scored their only touchdown on Williams' 1-yard run. Then they struck at the Jets' special Achilles' heel on the ensuing kickoff when Toby Gowin's onside topper was recovered by Fred Weary.

Edwards said that special teams coach Mike Westhoff "huddled them up on the sideline and told them to get ready for the onsides kick. We even moved Jamie [Henderson] over there. They made a good kick. And I guess we've got to bring another guy over there."

However, the Jets weathered that storm. And Testaverde's end zone intentional grounding for a safety. And burning their last timeout of the half with 8:15 to play. And John Hall's field goal miss from 35 yards out midway through the fourth quarter.

And when Steve Martin hopped on Brooks' fumbled exchange the next play after Hall's miss, it set up Hall's third successful field goal try, from 23 yards with 3:27 to play, to put the Jets up by seven. Two more Brooks sacks, by Lewis and James Farrior, seemed to put the icing on the cake for the defense in particular and for the Jets in general.

But then came that silly little inch. But silly critics. The Jets won again. And they go into their next game, at home against 2-5 Kansas City on Sunday and the second half of this newly promising season.

"We talked about the Rams [34-14 loss two weeks ago] and using that as a measuring stick," said Vinny Testaverde. "We were disappointed in that game, but we were thinking the same thing this time and for this game. We feel pretty good. Obviously we're playing well on the road. Now we'd like to do that at home."

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