The Jets are going to be the Titans this weekend, but Chad Pennington knows he can't be a mythical giant.
"I can't try to be a superhero," he said today.
Pennington and his teammates wore their Throwback blue helmets at practice this afternoon. Without logos, the helmet is a simple look. Prior to the workout, Pennington talked about using a simplified approach.
"Don't try too hard. Let the game come to you, understand the situation and make it work," he said. "Don't feel like you have to take a game on your shoulders by yourself because it is a team game."
Pennington, who has been victimized by five interceptions the past two weeks, admits to pressing and he's not pleased by the turnovers. But Penny believes he's played some pretty good ball throughout the season.
"When I look at my play individually, I feel really good about how I'm playing the game of football when you extract five plays out of all games," he said. "Ninety-five percent of the plays I feel really good about."
The numbers suggest he is onto something. Pennington has completed 71 percent of his passes and his 139.1 passer rating on third down is the best in football.
"I feel like I have gotten better as a quarterback and gotten better within the system," he said. "I'm really doing some good things to help us get into some good plays and help us get out of some bad plays. I'm seeing things really well."
Involved in tight contests the past two weeks, Pennington and the Jets uncharacteristically stumbled down the stretch. His four fourth-quarter interceptions have caused his final-quarter passer rating to fall to just 35.4.
"When you're in a hole, you quit digging. You hear the saying 'More is better,' but sometimes less is better," he said. "That is why I am going to run this offense efficiently like I have and eliminate two or three of those critical plays that caused us to be in a bad situation."
The Jets are 1-4 and whenever a team isn't producing, the backup quarterback becomes the most popular guy in town. Pennington maintains he isn't looking over his shoulder and only ahead at the next challenge.
Donovan McNabb, the highly successful Eagles passer who will visit the Meadowlands Sunday, has taken his share of criticism over the years.
"It's just the position. People love you when you're winning," he said during a conference call with the Jets media. "And when things aren't going well, the first person they point at is the quarterback when it may not all be the quarterback. But it's just something that comes with the position."
Eagles head coach Andy Reid — Brett Favre's former QB coach in Green Bay and McNabb's mentor in Philly — has always held Pennington in high regard.
"I've always been a Chad Pennington fan," said the two-time NFL Coach of the Year. "I think he's very smart and efficient with the football. It's a tough media area, so you get scrutinized just a little bit, but he's sure had some success. I've had a chance to follow his career, and barring the injuries, he's had a heck of a career."
Pennington also said he was trying to do a little too much in 2003. After suffering a hand injury in the preseason, he didn't return until a late October game against Philadelphia. Coming off the bench, he threw a pick in the fourth quarter of the 24-17 loss to the Eagles. The next game the Jets bowed to the Giants in overtime, 31-28, as they searched for a spark.
But Pennington regained his form, throwing a combined five touchdown passes against no interceptions the next two games and posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the Colts in Indianapolis.
You sense that Penny is champing at the bit to get back on the field. He's got a bad taste in his mouth and is ready to start a new streak.
"It's a difficult situation, trying times," he said. "Anytime you are going through a losing streak and have a losing streak, it's tough for all of us."
The trick now is staying within himself.