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[Jets] Suddenly shaky Pennington

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  • [Jets] Suddenly shaky Pennington

    Chad Pennington quickly has reached a defining moment in his career.

    He will either guide the Jets into the playoffs with a big game against a bad Rams team or, after presiding over their first 5-0 start, be held accountable for the biggest collapse/choke in team history.

    "I'm like a volcano inside," Pennington said yesterday. "Sunday can't get here fast enough."

    The tension was evident in the locker room on a day the Jets followed the handbook for teams in crisis and held an obligatory players-only meeting. They've been going at this non-stop since the end of July and now for the fourth time in the last five seasons, their playoff fate will be decided on the season's final day. After not losing until Oct. 24 then sitting in great shape at 9-3, a team meeting to fire each other up was not supposed to be on the agenda. Neither was a potential single-elimination season finale.

    But these are the Jets. So nothing ever comes easy.

    Pennington is only 2-2 since coming back from his shoulder injury. He played horribly in the December losses to Pittsburgh and New England with one touchdown and five interceptions as the Jets scored only 13 points. Suddenly it was appropriate to wonder if he will ever be an elite quarterback.

    "I feel good," he said. "I'm not down on myself. I don't doubt myself at all."

    This has been a difficult few weeks for the $64 million QB. He admits it's been the most "challenging" time of his career. Two years ago, he was Joe Montana coming down the stretch. This year he's been Joe Pisarcik.

    "Every game is a defining moment," Pennington said. "I'm excited about it. But you know what? I can't talk about it. I just got to go do it."

    Reputations are made or destroyed in season-deciding games. Pennington's career was set to take off after he carried the Jets into the playoffs two years ago. But he's since gone backwards. Now, so much is at stake for him in St. Louis.

    "It's a hump game. Get over the hump," he said. "It's a hump game for me to play well in a big situation and perform well and win."

    If the Jets win, they get to 11-5, tying the second-most regular-season victories in their 45 years. If they lose, they still get in the playoffs with a Bills or Broncos loss, but they're out if they lose and the Bills and Broncos win. They don't want to back in.

    So, what happens Sunday? The Jets will beat the Rams and Pennington will play like he did against Seattle.

    It's evident the Jets can't yet play with the big boys of the NFL. The Patriots are better than them. So are the Steelers. Probably the Colts, too. When the Jets step up in class, they can't handle it. But they are stepping down to play the JV again this week. The days of the Rams being "The Greatest Show On Turf" are long gone. St. Louis is the kind of team the Jets handle easily. The Rams struggled to beat the Eagles Monday night and Philly played it like a preseason game.

    "The only guys who didn't play are the running back and the quarterback," Rams coach Mike Martz said yesterday from St. Louis.

    Oh, is that all?

    Martz sounded serious over the phone, so we can only assume he said it with a straight face. Actually, Donovan McNabb played the first series and took the Eagles down the field for a touchdown. That was it for Philly's offense. Brian Westbrook didn't dress. Defensive end Jevon Kearse didn't play.

    St. Louis is only 27th against the rush, which means lots of Curtis Martin and LaMont Jordan and less of a reliance on Pennington. The Rams are 7-8 and only the forgiving NFC allows them to still be fighting for a playoff spot. "They got a lot on the line, too," Pennington said. "Like coach says, pressure busts pipes. So we'll see whose pipes are broken first."

    Martin insists the Jets fully support Pennington. They have faith in him. They trust him. When the players stop believing in the quarterback, he's done. Instead of putting the focus on Pennington, Martin turned the heat up on the entire team. He was disgusted with how it played Sunday.

    "We either put up or shut up. This is do or die for us," he said. "It decides our future. We know what we did last week was unacceptable. We played horribly. I think everyone's ego is hurt. The pride of the team was hurt after last week. We can't allow anything like that to ever happen again. I hope we never play a game like that for the rest of my time here."

    But now they have to win in St. Louis. "I'm expecting to see the New York Jets play their best game of the season this Sunday coming up," Martin said.

    Pennington knows there is "no easy way out" in the NFL. "Everything is tough and only the mentally tough survive," he said.

    The Jets have put themselves in a tough spot. This is Pennington's defining moment.

    Originally published on December 30, 2004

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  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Jets refuel on fiery speeches
    by DJRamFan
    Veterans, then Herm, Ram playoff message


    Herm Edwards delivers stirring address looking to get his Jets off the ground.

    Facing the crucible of a season-defining finale, the Jets turned up the heat yesterday at Weeb Ewbank Hall. Their meeting room became an emotional inferno. Times two.
    Herman Edwards, trying to rally his team from a demoralizing loss to the Patriots, delivered one of his vintage pep talks. Ordinarily, he's the only motivational speaker needed on the premises. But, on this day, the coach was preceded by a rare players-only meeting in which at least three veterans addressed the team, according to several players.

    Before Edwards arrived, Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin and Terrell Buckley spoke. In essence, they tried to convey a sense of urgency and hope, imploring their teammates to forget the New England meltdown and seize the moment. There was some tough talk, too. "There was a lot of fire, and not necessarily all of it came from Herm, either," said LaMont Jordan, summarizing the oratory events of the day. "The players in the locker room have a lot of fire built up in us that we want to let out once we get to St. Louis."

    The Jets (10-5) finish the regular season Sunday in St. Louis, where they meet the Rams (7-8) in a game loaded with playoff implications. The Jets clinch an AFC wild-card berth with a victory; the Rams need a win and some help to claim a spot in the NFC playoffs.

    It didn't have to be this stressful for the Jets, but they blew it on Sunday with a no-show against the Patriots. Martin isn't a speech-giving kind of guy, but he was so galled by the performance that he decided to speak up. "It was much-needed," he said of the players-only meeting. "We had a disgusting game last week. It was so glaringly disgusting that you couldn't just sweep it under the carpet.

    "As a leader, I feel responsible. As leaders, we take ownership of this team. I'm watching film of that game and I'm thinking, 'That's my team out there, playing like that.' I had to say something. I guess Chad felt the same way."

    Pennington said he wanted to remind the team it still has a wonderful opportunity. "It's important, through all the negativity, to understand we still control our own destiny," he said. "Through all the chaos that has surrounded our team, like losing to the elite teams, we still put ourselves in position to make the playoffs and we can still play for the championship."

    Players-only meetings happen maybe once or twice a year. Some players are cynical, saying they have no effect. Jordan said "the difference between this meeting and the other meetings is you could kind of feel the aura in the room - a positive aura."

    But he added, "All this talk,...
    -12-30-2004, 02:14 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Verge of collapse
    by DJRamFan
    Doubts start to creep in for reeling Chad and Jets


    Chad Pennington has no answers on Sunday, but still faced the press yesterday.

    The only things missing yesterday at Weeb Ewbank Hall were a shrink and a leather couch in the middle of the Jets' locker room.

    "It's like waking up from a bad dream," said Chad Pennington, describing the psyche of the team. "You wake up and you just don't believe that it happened."

    Oh, it happened all right, a 23-7 meltdown against the Patriots, putting the Jets in a familiar back-to-the-wall scenario for the season finale Sunday in St. Louis. For Pennington, it was his second personal nightmare in three weeks and it seemed to hit him hard.

    For the first time in his mostly successful tenure as the starting quarterback, Pennington expressed self-doubt. In a candid self-evaluation, he acknowledged that his recent struggles have caused him to wonder if his on-the-field demeanor has changed from 2002, the year he led the NFL in passing.

    His conclusion: No, he hasn't changed. But a Monday morning Freud might say it was telling that the question crossed his mind. "Am I different than I was, say, in '02? I don't think so," said Pennington, who has compiled a poor touchdown-interception (28-21) ratio since 2002. "I think the difference between '02 and these last two years is that everything didn't go smooth coming back from an injury.

    "I feel like my demeanor is good," he continued. "Obviously, ask my teammates and see how they feel, but I feel like they feed off me. It's just a matter of ... I don't know, I can't explain it right now. I'm looking for answers and I've got to find them quick because time is running out."

    It's a one-game season for the Jets (10-5). If they beat the Rams, they clinch a wild-card berth and the fifth seed in the playoffs. If they lose, and the Bills and Broncos (both 9-6) win their final games, the Jets will miss the playoffs in what would be one of the biggest collapses in recent memory.

    Some players admitted the offense lacks the necessary confidence to beat elite teams, which could be perceived as a dig at Pennington, who prides himself on being the sparkplug.

    On Sunday, all eyes will be on Pennington, who has played miserably in the Jets' three biggest games. In two games against the Patriots and one against the Steelers, he has only one touchdown pass, five interceptions, two touchdown drives and an 0-3 record. Since returning from a strained rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, which likely will require off-season surgery, Pennington is 2-2. Against the Steelers and Patriots, he made bad decisions and floated some passes.

    Is his shoulder bothering him more than he's letting...
    -12-28-2004, 10:56 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Edwards Relishes Jets' Must-Win Situation
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets could have wrapped up a playoff berth last week with a victory.

    Ah, but these are the Jets, who seem to enjoy doing things the hard way. Now they face their toughest game of the season: They must win at St. Louis, in front of a hostile crowd, against another team playing for a postseason berth.

    A daunting task, indeed. Unless you ask coach Herman Edwards.

    "It's good for you," Edwards said Wednesday. "The harder, the better. Come on. The bigger the bully, the better. Come on. Because life is about a fight. You can't go run in your house and close the door. You're not in your neighborhood, so you'd better go fight. If we do that, we'll be OK."

    There was not much fight in the Jets (10-5) last week in a 23-7 loss to New England. They returned to practice eager to make up for all the mistakes they made against the Patriots - and knowing a victory is the only thing that matters.

    Whether or not this is a good situation come Sunday remains to be seen.

    "I don't know why but we always play our best when our backs are completely against the wall," veteran receiver Wayne Chrebet said. "We could have had it locked up and go looking forward to the playoffs this week instead of sweating it out, but ... I think we'll see a different team out there last week."

    It better be. But that will not be easy.

    The Rams have won 13 straight regular-season home games in December and January dating to 1998. The Rams last lost late in the season at home on Dec. 14, 1997, when they fell 13-10 to Chicago.

    St. Louis (7-8) also is alive for a shot at the NFC West title or an NFC wild card with a victory, thanks to a 20-7 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night.

    "It's great," Edwards said. "It will be loud; it's a playoff atmosphere. It's everything you can ask for as a coach and as a player. I love it, that's why you do this. You want these moments for your football team."

    He has gone through these moments before, in 2001 and 2002, when the Jets needed to win their final game for a playoff berth. They did just that both times, beating Oakland on the road in '01 and Green Bay at home in '02.

    Perhaps that is why Edwards and his team are not panicking.

    "Maybe we are a drama-filled team," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Maybe we like those exciting finishes. I am quite sure it gives some fans some heart attacks, and I am pretty sure there have been a couple of TVs in New York City thrown out some windows. But everything that has happened from Week 1 to Week 16 would be forgotten if we make the playoffs."

    That means...
    -01-01-2005, 04:11 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Backs against wall for 3rd time
    by DJRamFan
    Here they go again. For the fourth time in five years, the third time under Herman Edwards, the Jets will go into the final game facing a win-and-they're-in scenario. Under Edwards, they're 2-0 in those situations, having qualified for the playoffs in 2001 and 2002 on the final day of the season.
    "We like drama and we definitely created a bunch of it," Chad Pennington said yesterday at Hofstra, where the Jets tried to regroup after losing to the Patriots, 23-7.

    The Jets blew a chance to clinch on Sunday, leaving them in a state of shock. By Sunday's game in St. Louis, Edwards expects them to be mentally ready for the challenge.

    "I'm not going to rant and rave and do a pep rally and do a cheerleading drill," Edwards said. "I'm not doing that. These guys are professionals."

    Here's the playoff lowdown:

    If the Jets (10-5) beat the Rams, they clinch the fifth seed and play a wild-card game in San Diego.

    If they lose, the Jets still can make the playoffs if the Bills (9-6) and/or Broncos (9-6) lose.

    If the Jets lose, and the Bills and Broncos both win, the Jets are the odd team out. They would lose out because of a divisional tiebreaker with the Bills, who would have a better record than the Jets against common opponents - 10-4 to 8-6.

    The Rams will have something to play for. They beat the Eagles last night, 20-7, to keep their chances for the NFC West title and a wild card alive.

    Edwards' close friend, Colts coach Tony Dungy, could help his buddy by beating the Broncos. But the Colts have clinched the third seed and probably will play their starters for only part of the game.

    "We don't want any help," Edwards said. "We want to win a game. We don't need charity. We need to go win. If we don't, we don't deserve to get in. That's it, period."

    The Jets have dropped two of their last three games. Said RB LaMont Jordan: "Coming into the playoffs, we don't look like a team that belongs there."

    NO ABRAHAM: Even though Edwards said DE John Abraham (sprained knee) might be listed as questionable after missing the last three games, the Jets don't expect him to play against the Rams, according to a person familiar with the team's thinking. Abraham may start running this week, but he's not going to practice.

    Abraham reiterated what he said last week, that he's aiming to return for the first playoff game - if there is a playoff game. He wants to be at least 85% before returning.

    BLAME GAME: Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson blamed himself for the Patriots' two touchdown passes, saying he should've anticipated the passes and played man-to-man instead of zone.

    "Out of 14 games, this might have been my worst game as a defensive coordinator (in terms of) calling...
    -12-28-2004, 10:59 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Jets] Jets Need a Win to Assure Playoff Spot
    by DJRamFan
    AP Sports Writer

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets started 5-0, something no other team in franchise history has done.

    And still, they may not make the playoffs. The Jets must win at St. Louis on Sunday to assure themselves of a wild-card berth in the AFC. If they lose, they need help to make it in the postseason.

    The Jets (10-5) have failed to clinch thanks to poor performances in big games, including a 23-7 loss to New England in which they could not muster much of anything. Now they find themselves in a familiar spot.

    In 2001 and 2002, when the Jets made the playoffs under coach Herman Edwards, they needed victories in their regular-season finales to advance to the postseason.

    "It seems like our team likes these situations," Chad Pennington said. "We like drama. We have definitely created a bunch of it."

    The Jets had a chance to clinch a spot with a victory over New England, but the game spun out of control quickly. After controlling the ball for most of the first quarter, the Jets had no points to show for it. But the Patriots did not make the same mistakes.

    New England led 13-0 at halftime, and the Jets were all but out of it. They had to rely on the pass in the second half, which led to a season-low in yards rushing with 46. They also tied for second-lowest total plays with 57, and had a paltry 279 yards of total offense.

    To avoid the embarrassment of failing to reach the postseason after such a strong start, all the Jets need to do is win. But if they lose, there might be trouble. They can still make it with a loss, coupled with a loss by either Buffalo or Denver.

    But if Buffalo beats Pittsburgh, Denver beats Indianapolis and the Jets lose, New York would miss the playoffs because the Bills hold the edge over their division rival based on common opponents.

    "We have the upper hand. All we have to do is win a game," Edwards said. "That should be your mind-set. I'm not going to rant and rave and do a pep rally and do a cheerleading drill. These guys are professionals. They know where they are at in this season."

    Some of them also know how it is to go into the final game of the season needing a victory. In 2001, the Jets needed to win at Oakland, a place that caused them problems.

    And they did. John Hall kicked a 52-yard field goal and the Jets made it to the first round, where they promptly lost to the Raiders. In 2002, the Jets overcame a 1-4 start and needed some help plus a win over Green Bay in the final to make the postseason.

    The help worked out. New England beat Miami, and the Jets trounced Green Bay 41-0 to give them the AFC East.

    "If you look at the last couple of times we've gotten to the playoffs, it's always down...
    -01-01-2005, 04:13 PM