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Jets make Chargers look nothing like they did

11/4/2002

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- OK, so maybe the New York Jets aren't that bad, after all. And maybe the San Diego Chargers aren't quite that good.

Question on the Jets: Will the Jets build on this or will Herm Edwards have to lose his cool in two more weeks?
Edwards has played that card too many times. The Jets have to win games on attitude and performance, like they did Sunday against San Diego. They looked strong. Then they came out in the third quarter, played well and finished the second half. Chad Pennington looks solid, getting everyone involved in the game plan. That is important to the Jets' success. Curtis Martin looks like he is back and is ready to carry the load. Defensively, they played better than they have all season.

Question on the Chargers: Did the Chargers forget the bye was last weekend, not today?

Despite their record, the Chargers are still a young team. They weren't ready to play Sunday. That can happen with a second-year quarterback and a second-year running back. When the Chargers fell behind early, they didn't have the offensive system that would allow them to come back. They like to play ahead and focus on the run. The Chargers have a tendency to play down to their level, and I think the bye week hurt them.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

At any rate, the reeling Jets got better in a hurry with a 44-13
rout Sunday of the AFC-leading Chargers, who came dressed in their
powder-blue throwback jerseys and left looking like powderpuffs
after getting worked over all afternoon.

The stunning victory came a week after the Jets (3-5) blew an
18-point lead in a 24-21 loss to Cleveland, prompting defensive end
John Abraham to harshly criticize the conservative play-calling.

"Just getting a win was good for us, just to put a lot of
negatives behind us,'' Abraham said. "We're trying to build a
season now. A lot of people put us in the dirt right now. We know
we're a better team than we've shown.''

Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin and Santana Moss provided the big
scoring plays early. With LaMont Jordan's 61-yard touchdown run
with 1:49 left, the Jets scored their most points since a 48-21 win
over Carolina on Nov. 29, 1998.

The Chargers (6-2), who came in tied with Green Bay for the
NFL's best record, never were in this game, despite coming off a
bye week that allowed players like Junior Seau and Marcellus Wiley
to get healthy.

"We didn't come out here ready to play,'' said LaDainian
Tomlinson, the NFL's third-leading running back who was held to
just 60 yards on 12 carries. "We took these guys for granted.''

That didn't sit well with coach Marty Schottenheimer, who
admitted neither he nor the players did a good job of preparing.

"The performance we put on today was unacceptable,''
Schottenheimer said. "I didn't get the message across, but I made
it very clear throughout the week that this was a very formidable
football team.''

Chargers strong safety Rodney Harrison served a one-game
suspension, without pay, for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oakland's
Jerry Rice two weeks ago, and San Diego's pass coverage was leaky.

Pennington threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and Moss
had a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown, his second in as many
weeks as the Jets built a 21-0 lead. Martin scored once.

Linebacker James Darling intercepted Drew Brees and returned it
38 yards to set up John Hall's 24-yard field goal for a 31-7
halftime lead, and recovered rookie Reche Caldwell's fumble on a
kickoff return in the third quarter.

New York went up 34-7 following Hall's 32-yard field goal midway
through the third quarter.

"We were able to take the action to them and put them back on
their heels,'' Pennington said. "I don't think they were as flat
as maybe surprised a little bit.''

The Chargers were booed at home for the first time this year. It
was their worst defeat since a 42-10 loss at Kansas City on Sept.
17, 2000, and the most points allowed since a 45-17 loss to San
Francisco on Dec. 3, 2000. The Chargers were 1-15 that season.

Even last year, when they were 5-11, the Chargers never lost by
more than 10 points.

"We played probably the worst that we could possibly play and
they came out and played very, very well,'' Brees said.

Pennington killed the Chargers with dumpoff passes to running
backs Richie Anderson, Martin and Jordan. He completed 28 of 37
passes for 253 yards.

The Jets scored twice in less than two minutes late in the first
quarter for a 14-0 lead. Pennington capped a 91-yard drive by
scoring on an 8-yard run, his first in the NFL, after the middle
opened up.

"That was just reaction,'' Pennington said. "We've got to have
the mentality of whatever it takes to win games. We don't really
care how we do it, just as long as we do it.''

The Chargers went three-and-out and had to punt, with Moss
returning it 11 yards. But Carlos Polk was called for illegal use
of the hands, and Darren Bennett punted again. This time, Moss went
52 yards for the score. Four Chargers missed him at midfield, and
Damien Robinson took out Bennett at the 30.

Pennington hit Anthony Becht on a 1-yard scoring pass before
Brees threw a 13-yard TD pass to Curtis Conway to close to 21-7.

Martin scored on a 17-yard run with 57 seconds left before
halftime, and Hall added a 24-yard field goal.

Brees was 22-of-35 for 192 yards, with one TD and two
interceptions.

Game notes
The Jets have returned punts for touchdowns in consecutive
weeks for the first time. ... Chargers DT Jason Fisk and OT Damion
McIntosh both sprained their right ankles. ... San Diego's Wade
Richey had one kickoff go out of bounds, giving the Jets the ball
at their 40, and later botched an onside kick attempt, drawing a
5-yard penalty.

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