"As the quarterback goes, so does the team usually," Pennington said. "If a quarterback in this league can manage a game appropriately, even if he doesn't have huge numbers, your team will have a chance to win in the end."
Pennington had 14 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions on the season, but he has 10 TDs and four picks in the Jets' seven victories. In their six losses, he has four touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, including one returned for a 58-yard touchdown by Buffalo's Nate Clements last week.
"That really shows you how important it is to protect the football," Pennington said this week of the disparity in his statistics as the Jets prepare to visit Minnesota. "That's something that I need to improve on, something that in the past that I've been relatively good at, and this year I haven't done a good job of that. I definitely need to protect the football at all costs. Even when our offense isn't being as productive as we would like for it to be, you still have to take care of the football and make sure at the end of the game you have a chance to win. That's all you ask for."
Although the Minnesota defense is 27th in the NFL in passing yards per game, allowing 228.8, the Vikings have picked off 18 passes and permitted only 13 touchdown throws.
"I think you have three guys in the (Minnesota) secondary," Pennington said, "(Darren) Sharper, (Dwight) Smith and (Antoine) Winfield — that are veteran, savvy guys that play excellent football. They have great ball skills. When you do pass, you have to be aware of those guys and you have to know they're not just secondary guys who knock the ball down. They intercept the football. They're very opportunistic. If we do get passing opportunities, we have to be precise in our routes, precise in our throwing. We just have to play really well to beat these guys."
As for his own inconsistency, Pennington said, "I think there are multiple reasons. One could be getting used to the new system. Another could be forcing some throws. Another could be just mere circumstance of a tipped ball or something like that, a high throw here or there. With all that said, I have to concentrate on what I can control, and that is decision-making, being more consistent in decision-making, making sure that if I don't make the perfect decision, let's not make the worst decision to put my team in a bad spot."
Part of Pennington's problem is the fact that opponents have been taking away Laveranues Coles. The veteran wideout had no catches in the second half of the loss to the Bills, and he didn't even have a pass thrown his way.
"A lot of people are just starting to take notice," Coles said, "or I guess the writers are starting to take notice, but it's been the same for me for most of my career. Even last year when people thought we weren't doing so well and things weren't going so well for the team, people always had their top corner match me and follow me around, and they put a safety on the hash to try and keep me in check.
"Either someone else makes plays, like Jerricho Cotchery and other guys, or they find a way to get the ball in my hands."
Coles defended Pennington, saying, "I don't always think that the quarterback should take as much heat as he does. It's good that he gets a lot of credit when we win, but it's not as good when we lose and everybody points the finger at him. ... Chad alone can't win it by himself, but then again Chad alone can't lose it by himself."