"About the only good thing that came out of tonight is that it didn't count," the New York Jets quarterback said.
A week after not attempting a pass, Pennington had two ill-advised throws returned for touchdowns in a 37-20 loss to the Vikings on Friday night. Darren Sharper's 40-yard return came on Pennington's third pass, and Chad Greenway later brought one back 16 yards for the Vikings (1-1), who took advantage of nearly every mistake by the Jets (1-1).
"I told them after the game that if anybody has the impression that this is OK because it's preseason, they're wrong," coach Eric Mangini said.
Rookie defensive end Brian Robison returned a fumble for a touchdown, the Vikings' third off a turnover.
"We know when our defense performs the way it performed that we can win a lot of games," Sharper said. "Our attitude is to create turnovers and score with the football."
Rookie running back Adrian Peterson also had a big game for Minnesota, gaining 70 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
"I'm getting better each week," the No. 7 overall pick said. "The game is faster now, but I feel like I'm catching up with it."
The Vikings led 14-3 after the first quarter, despite holding the ball for just 58 seconds because of the Jets' offensive mistakes. In New York's preseason opener against Atlanta, Pennington was ordered to only hand off during his two series. The rust certainly showed.
On the fifth play of the game, Pennington faced a heavy rush and threw a pass off his back foot.
"I read Chad Pennington's eyes and he threw it right to me," Sharper said.
The ball floated to Sharper, who avoided a halfhearted tackling attempt by Pennington and sped into the end zone.
"I just lost sight of Sharper," Pennington said. "It was one of those things where you'd like to have a string on the football so you could have that one back."
Pennington bounced back with a solid drive on the team's next possession, but the Jets had to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. Jerricho Cotchery made a nice 10-yard catch to get New York to the 1, but as he was getting up, the receiver bounced the ball off the turf -- and was called for delay of game as part of the NFL's crackdown on excessive celebrations.
The Jets then couldn't get into the end zone.
"Whenever you turn the ball over, it's hard to win, especially when you play a good defense like Minnesota," running back Leon Washington said.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, Pennington made another costly mistake. On second-and-16, Pennington was pressured by Ray Edwards and lofted a pass toward Washington. Greenway stepped in front of the soft toss and took it in for an easy touchdown with 3:28 left in the opening quarter.
"I'd just throw it at Leon's feet and live to see another down," Pennington said when asked what he'd do differently. "Anytime you're under pressure like that, you don't want to make something bad into something worse."
Pennington finished 7-of-10 for 40 yards for the Jets, who were playing without star running back Thomas Jones, sidelined by a strained right calf. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets' first-round pick, was in uniform but didn't play after ending his holdout Wednesday.
After Nugent's 34-yard field goal made it 14-6 early in the second quarter, Peterson showed why he was the first running back drafted in April. On his first carry, the bruising 6-foot-1, 217-pound running back hit the hole and took off down the right sideline for 43 yards before being knocked out of bounds by David Barrett.
"I kind of hit him at the same time he was knocking me out," Peterson said. "I wanted to let him know that I was going to get him before he got me. I think that's part of playing in the NFL: sending a message to the other team that you're tough."
Peterson, who had 33 yards on 11 carries in the Vikings' preseason opener, rumbled up the middle six plays later for 3 yards to give Minnesota a 21-6 lead.
On Minnesota's next drive, Shaun Ellis sacked backup Brooks Bollinger and forced a fumble that he also recovered. Justin McCareins scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens three plays later.
The Vikings put the game away with 6:18 left in the third quarter on consecutive plays by Robison, the team's fourth-round pick out of Texas.
After Robison sacked Clemens and forced a fumble that the Jets recovered, Pete Kendall's errant shotgun snap went over Clemens' head. Instead of falling on it, the quarterback tried to pick it up but the ball bounced to Robison, who rumbled 3 yards into the end zone.
"It was just one of those days," Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. "We took one on the chin."
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