By Jet Moses
The Eric Mangini era began with all the drama and suspense that most Jets seasons begin with, only this time the story had a happy ending. Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Eric Manginiâ€™s underdog Jets overcame adversity and persevered. The beauty of it is the fact that it was a team effort. Starting the season 1-0, on the road, is no small accomplishment for any team in the NFL, but for a young Jets team all the prognosticators predicted wouldnâ€™t win more than six games this season, this victory was huge. In spite of a non-existent running game, the Jets offense was able to muster up 23 points.
Chad Pennington showed the same moxy that he showed in his NFL debut in 2002. Pennington threw for 319 yards and 2 TDâ€™s. He did it behind an offensive line featuring two rookies, and a second stringer, guard Norm Katnik, filling in for an injured Pete Kendall. When the Titans tied the game up at 16-16, and the momentum clearly shifted in Tennesseeâ€™s favor, our two rookie offensive linemen, Nick Mangold, and Dâ€™Brickashaw Ferguson, showed the resolve of veteran O-linemen, contributing to the final TD drive that would inevitably put the game away. During the pre-season, all we kept hearing was how Chad Pennington didnâ€™t finish any drives that ended in points. There were some fans saying Mangini should start Patrick Ramsey, or rookie Kellen Clemens. They kept saying Chad was washed up. And yet, Chad, with the help of his unheralded four wide receivers, put up 23 points.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer effectively distributed the ball to wide receivers Laveraneus Coles, Brad Smith, Jericho Cotchery, and Justin McCareins, who all made significant catches that contributed to the victory. Tight Ends Sean Ryan and Chris Baker also had their numbers called. Baker had a TD and Ryan, unfortunately had the ball stripped for a fumble.
The running game, besides a TD by RB Kevan Barlow, was ineffective, and yet, Chad Pennington, with two surgeries in two years on his throwing shoulder, kept his poise in the face of the perpetual blitz. That, in and of itself, is admirable. But the most formidable obstacle the Jets offense had to overcome wasnâ€™t the Titanâ€™s defense, it was their own field goal kicker, Mike Nugent. Going into this season, it was understood that the Jets offense could not afford to leave any points on the field. It was understood that if they could sustain a drive, and get close enough, that they would have to settle for field goals.
Mike Nugent is payed millions of dollars to perform his job. Missing a 30-yard FG once, is inexcusable. Missing two of them is an absolute disgrace. He also missed an extra point. Mike Nugent left seven points on the field and almost cost the Jets the game. The amazing thing is, the Jets did not implode, as is their history in such circumstances. Thatâ€™s a good sign.
The defense played very well in this game. I previously predicted the Jets secondary will lead the NFL in interceptions in 2006, and they got off to an illustrious start. Kevin Dyson had two picks and Kerry Rhodes had one. I thought all of the down linemen did a good job, and Bryan Thomas in his NFL debut as a linebacker, also did well.
Congratulations, Coach Eric Mangini on your first NFL victory. You and your staff made us proud. Thank you.