The heat index in Miami reached triple digits and Brett Favre got off to a red-hot start as a New York Jet. In perhaps the most highly anticipated regular-season opener in franchise history, Favre threw two dramatic touchdowns while leading the Green & White to a 20-14 victory over Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins.
"That’s what it’s all about — to walk off that field with a win,” Favre said.
Favre didn’t play favorites, hitting seven different receivers. He put points on the scoreboard with a 56-yard TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery in the first quarter and then a stunning 22-yard score to Chansi Stuckey in the second. His stat line for the day read 15-of-22 for 194 yards and no interceptions.
But Favre got plenty of help on this afternoon. Thomas Jones ran for 101 yards and a score and the defense was solid throughout, holding on at the end as corner Darrelle Revis made an athletic interception in the Jets’ end zone to prevent a possible Dolphins comeback victory. The Green & White have now taken the past five games in the series, 17 of the last 21, and eight of 11 at Dolphin Stadium.
“I talked all week about the importance of finish and I was proud of the finish we had,” said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. “It was a little more exciting than I would probably like it to be, but most Jets-Dolphins games come down to situations like that.”
A master showman, Favre delighted a large Green & White contingent in Miami with his spectacular TD pass to Cotchery on the Jets’ second possession. The future Hall of Famer deftly faked a handoff to Thomas Jones, let J-Co bob like he was going to run across the field before coming back toward the left sideline and then unloaded a gorgeous longball on target to the wideout. It was Favre’s first TD pass as a Jet and his first in 123 pass attempts on opening day.
“I thought I overthrew him, but I obviously didn’t,” Favre said. “That’s the one thing I didn’t want to do with the first big-shot play we had was just unleash one and throw it to the second deck.”
“He has the ability to make some things happen down the field that are impressive,” Mangini said of his new quarterback.
The Jets were very close to taking a two-touchdown first-half lead. Favre, who was 3-of-7 in the first stanza for 75 yards, narrowly missed Laveranues Coles on a slant in the end zone as the ball was just out of Coles' grasp. And the Jets failed to get any points when Mike Nugent, who hurt his thigh on his second kickoff, sailed a 32-yarder wide right.
That opened the door for the Dolphins and they would even things up at 7. Pennington orchestrated an 11-play drive, completing all five of his passes on the 78-yard march, including a 5-yard scoring pass to TE Anthony Fasano.
But Favre came back in Houdini fashion. With the injured Nugent unable to kick, the Green & White were forced to go for it on fourth-and-13 instead of attempting a 40-yard field goal. And despite looking like he had absolutely nothing, Favre got a jump pass off before getting crushed. Stuckey somehow got free from the DBs and hauled in an amazing touchdown.
“I saw him. I didn’t think he had a chance in hell of catching it,” Favre said with a laugh.
Stuckey’s first professional catch gave the visitors a 13-7 advantage, but Favre’s pass to Leon Washington was broken up and the Jets were denied on their two-point attempt. The score remained the same into intermission as Favre completed eight of 15 for 118 yards and 2 TDs in his first 30 minutes as a Jet.
After Favre lost a fumble early in the third, the Jets cashed in late in the quarter when Jones scooted home from 5 yards out. TJ matched his scoring total from last year, bouncing to the right when there wasn’t a hole in the middle and outrunning defenders to the pylon. Nugent returned for the extra point and the Jets took a 20-7 lead into the closing quarter.
Miami knocked on the door later but rookie corner Dwight Lowery made a fine breakup of a Pennington fourth-and-goal pass from the 2. The 5’11”, 202-pounder made a great read and knocked down a ball intended for Greg Camarillo.
But Pennington and the 'Fins were game to the end, cutting the Jets’ advantage to 20-14 on CP’s 11-yard score to TE David Martin with just 3:21 on the clock.
The Jets will fly home this evening and get a couple of hours to enjoy the win. A week from today, they’ll host the Patriots at an electrified Meadowlands. The Pats lost Tom Brady to a left knee injury in their opener and his status for next week is unknown.
“We can get a lot better, I think,” said left guard Alan Faneca. “If you can go out and get a win on the road and know you can get better, that’s good stuff.”
“There are no guarantees about what’s going to happen the rest of this year, but we’re 1-0,” Favre said. “I’m excited about the opportunity — not only for today but the remainder of the year.”
The Favre Record Book
A modern-day ironman, Favre made his 254th consecutive start. He also added to a number of his other NFL records, including TD passes (444) and passing yards (61,849). But most important, he got his 161st win as an NFL starter. His first pass as a Jet was a 5-yard completion to Laveranues Coles.
"We made some mistakes that were a result of the newness, but hey, it's a win," said the 38-year-old offensive captain.
Rookie Corner Starts
Lowery, a fourth-round pick from San Jose State, was the only Jets rookie in the starting lineup. He was credited with four tackles and three passes defensed in his first pro action. Veteran Justin Miller (foot) was among the inactives.
"I think you have to welcome the challenge and welcome the pressure," Lowery said. "When you get too tight and you think outside the box, bad things are going to happen. I think you have to control yourself and revert back to situations that you've been in before."
Last season the Jets had only one pass play longer than Favre’s scoring heave to Cotchery — a 57-yard hookup from Pennington to Coles.
Pressure on Penny
Both Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas racked up sacks of their former teammate in the first half. It gave Ellis 54.5 sacks for his career and moved him alone into fourth place in team annals. Then Calvin Pace, a free agent acquisition whom the Dolphins also desired, got his first sack as Jet in the final quarter. And BT made friendly acquaintance with Pennington again with just six minutes on the clock.
“We tried to keep him rattled and get as many bodies around him as we could,” Ellis said. “But he hung in there, he made some good throws and he made it tight there in the end.”
Pennington, who finished 26-of-43 for 251 yards with two scores and the one pick, played valiantly in defeat. He had to do a lot himself because the Jets rush defense was terrific, limiting Ricky Williams to 24 yards on 10 carries. The Jets held the Dolphins to just 277 total yards of offense.
“We just knew we had our hands full and we had to go out and be dominant at the line of scrimmage. We took care of business today,” Ellis said.
“I was proud of the defense and the way they were able to stop the run today. That was a big point of emphasis for us,” added Mangini.