Great Moments in Jets History: Wild Win in San Diego
JANUARY 8, 2005 – The New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers supplied plenty of wildness in their AFC Wild Card game, but New York managed to pull out an overtime victory over host San Diego in the first round of the playoffs. The win came against a team led by legendary coach, Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was named regular season Coach of the Year just hours before kick off.
Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, in a game that turned out to be one of the gutsiest performances of his career, connected on 23 of 33 passing attempts including two touchdowns and no interceptions. These stats, on top of his 279 passing yards, all came despite playing with a torn rotator cuff that had been nagging him since the injury occurred in November.
"I felt good all week physically, the trainers did a great job," Pennington said.
The Chargers struck first with their initial wild play of the contest. In the second quarter, Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees connected for 26 yards with Keenan McCardell in the corner of the end zone, a pass attempt which was initially ruled incomplete. Upon Schottenheimer's challenge, the play was reversed and a touchdown was credited, giving the Chargers a 7-0 lead after San Diego ate up over eight minutes of clock.
The Jets came back to tie it with just under three minutes remaining in the half as Pennington hooked up with Anthony Becht. It would be Becht's only reception of the evening. The 13-yard strike to Becht came after the Jets received great field position due to an unusual mistake by a renowned coach.
"I absolutely blew a fuse," Schottenheimer said. "It's unforgivable that I would do that."
Before the Jets even received the ball, the Chargers had punted from their 12-yard line to the Jets 48. After seeing a flag on the play, Coach Schottenheimer charged the field in protest of an unsportsmanlike conduct call on his punter, Mike Scifres. Scifres took a dive on the punt and the Jets began at the Chargers 37 and marched up field behind a Justin McCareins' 21-yard reception before Becht's grab.
Following halftime, the Jets forced the Chargers to go three-and-out on their opening drive, gaining a total of just seven yards on the possession. With that momentum, Coach Herm Edwards marched his men down field 75 yards for the go-ahead score. Wide receiver Santana Moss (both men to score the team's touchdowns that day, Moss and Becht, didn't return to the Jets the following season) caught a 47-yard bomb from Pennington – a ball that traveled close to 45-yards in the air to a streaking Moss who slipped in after catching it just shy of the goal line.
Following field goals by both kickers - the Jets' Doug Brien and the Chargers' Nate Kaeding - the Chargers, then down 17-10, began to show flashes of their true selves. A team that finished 12-4 in the regular season, San Diego marched downfield 80 yards before Brees and fellow Pro Bowler Antonio Gates connected late in the 4th to tie the game at 17.
The dramatic game-tying play should have never even taken place, as it was a direct result of a costly penalty by Jets veteran LB Eric Barton. On the Chargers' presumed last play of the day, a 4th and goal, Brees was clobbered in the head by a Barton forearm on a desperation pass attempt. The hit was ruled a personal foul, giving the Chargers another life, which they cashed in on, leaving Barton on the hook.
In overtime, the madness continued – this time in favor of the Green and White. After both teams could barely scratch out yardage on their first drives, they were forced to punt once apiece. When San Diego got the ball back, Kaeding, a rookie who was one-for-one on the day, came on to seal the deal from 40 yards out. As Barton stood and watched the play that could possibly rewrite his career, he bellowed out a huge sigh of relief as Kaeding's kick missed wide right with less than five minutes to go.
"I don't know what happened," Kaeding said. "I let my teammates and my coaches down, and I wasn't able to look them in the eye when I came back in the locker room knowing that I didn't do my job."
The Jets then started their own offensive charge, following a stomach churning review on an 18-yard catch by Moss. The play was challenged by the review assistant upstairs before being confirmed a catch. Upon that good grace, the Jets turned to McCareins for an 11-yard grab and running back LaMont Jordan for a 19-yard gain to get good field goal positioning. With five seconds to go, Brien – who started off this manic event with a missed field goal on the game's opening drive - came on to chip in a 28-yard field goal to send the Jets into a frenzy.
"I needed guys to dig me out of this and they did," Barton said. "I wasn't thinking too much, it was a stupid play, it is undisciplined of me, it is not how I am coached, it won't happen again."
With the victory, the Jets broke their franchise five-game road playoff losing streak, which began following a January 15, 1983 playoff victory against the LA Raiders 17-14 at the Coliseum.
"Considering this is the first time the Jets have won a road playoff game since '83, it is a great accomplishment for this team," Pennington said.
The San Diego loss was Marty Schottenheimer's fifth straight playoff defeat, dating back to 1993.
The Jets moved on to the divisional playoff game versus Pittsburgh. In another overtime event, the Jets were upended 20-17 on a game-winning field goal off the foot of the Steelers' Jeff Reed.