8:30 PM ET, December 22, 2002
The Jets kept their postseason hopes alive with a 30-17 win Sunday night over the New England Patriots, one week after they fell to lowly Chicago. "Last week we didn't think we were going to be breathing, but now we're breathing,'' said Pennington, who threw three touchdown passes and improved to 7-4 as a starter. Chrebet is breathing a lot easier after his 15-yard touchdown catch gave the Jets a 27-17 lead with 8:45 left. In the 20-13 loss to the Bears, he lost a fumble deep in Chicago territory with about a minute left when he tried to jump over defenders. "We've had games where we've made one mistake and the other team had none and they beat us,'' Chrebet said. "Tonight, they had one.'' It came after the Patriots tied the game on the opening drive of the third quarter, a 16-play, 66-yard march ending with Tom Brady's 6-yard scoring pass to Christian Fauria. Then the Patriots forced the Jets to punt. But Troy Brown muffed the kick and Nick Ferguson recovered at the New England 19. John Hall's 23-yard field goal, one of three he kicked, made it 20-17. "It just kills you. It takes a lot of momentum from your team,'' Brown said. "It's one of the worst plays I've ever had in my career. It was just a bad decision'' not to call for a fair catch. The Jets were 1-3 behind Vinny Testaverde, including a 44-7 rout by the Patriots in the second week of the season. Then Pennington took over. Now New York is 8-7 and tied with New England for second place in the AFC East behind Miami (9-6). If New York beats Green Bay and New England beats Miami next weekend, the Jets will win the AFC East with a better division record than the Dolphins and a better record against common opponents than the Patriots. "We've come along too far to not say we're going to finish it,'' Jets coach Herm Edwards said. "Our guys have had that fortitude, coming in here realizing that we had to win it or go home.'' New England will win the division if it beats Miami and New York loses to Green Bay, because the Patriots will have a better division record than the Dolphins. But the Super Bowl champs no longer control their playoff destiny. Had they beaten the Jets and Dolphins they would have won the division. Now they need help from Green Bay. The Jets, "don't come in here saying, 'We're playing the Super Bowl champs,''' Brady said. "They come in here saying, 'We're playing a team that's 8-6.''' With the Jets leading 20-17, Pennington led a 75-yard drive that iced the game on his 15-yard scoring pass to Chrebet with 8:45 left. Pennington completed his first 11 passes, the Jets outgained the Patriots 261 yards to 78 and the 17-10 halftime lead didn't reflect New York's domination. "I thought (on) our pass defense, we weren't very good for a good part of the game,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "That caused us a lot of the problems.'' New York also had a strong ground game. Curtis Martin became the second NFL player to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons. Barry Sanders did it in his first 10 seasons. Martin finished with 106 yards in 26 carries for a total of 1,011 yards this season. "It means everything to me. I was hurt this year. I didn't have one off day treatment,'' said Martin, who rushed for just five yards on a sprained ankle in the first game against the Patriots. Both teams were coming off bad losses. The Jets fell to Chicago 20-13, while the Patriots lost to Tennessee 24-7 last Monday night with a season-low 173 yards. The Patriots didn't play any better in the first half Sunday. Pennington's 11 straight completions covered 173 yards and included first-quarter touchdowns of 32 yards to Laveranues Coles and 11 yards to Santana Moss. His first incompletion came 46 seconds into the second quarter, and he finished 23-for-33 for 285 yards. New England got a big boost from Kevin Faulk's 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown just 14 seconds after the Jets took a 7-0 lead. It was his second score on a kickoff runback this season. The first also came on a Sunday night, an 86-yarder in a 27-20 loss to Oakland. The Patriots made it 14-10 on Adam Vinatieri's 49-yard field goal five minutes into the second quarter, and Hall added a 39-yarder for the Jets. Hall added a 43-yard field goal with 2:31 left. The Jets gained 186 yards in the first quarter alone after picking up just 200 when they lost to the Patriots on Sept. 15.Game notes
Chad Pennington has the uncanny ability to make his teammates better.
Brady was 19-for-37 for 133 yards one week after he threw for 134 against Tennessee. ... The Jets are 5-0 at New England since 1998. ... Fauria has seven touchdowns this season, matching his total for his previous seven seasons. ... John Abraham's 1½ sacks for the Jets gave him a team-high 10.
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