The New York Jets completed their preseason schedule in thrilling fashion Friday night, staging a furious second half rally to capture a 20-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at the Meadowlands. In a game where reserves were featured throughout, multi-purpose weapon Brad Smith scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:19 remaining and the Jets defense preserved the lead with a goal-line stand in the final minute.
"I really respect the way these guys work," said first-year Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "They worked hard. They prepared hard. They have come together. We are always looking for progress and I think we have made some progress."
Trailing 17-0 to start the third quarter and in desperate need of some momentum, the Jets were lifted by Leon Washington, Cedric Houston, and Dante Ridgeway. Washington, who earlier had a 50-yard punt called back due to offsetting infractions, returned the second half kick 50 yards. Then Patrick Ramsey handed the ball off to Houston five consecutive times and Houston powered his way for 34 yards. On a third down, Ramsey threw a fade in the direction of Ridgeway. Reaching out with his left hand, Ridgeway was able to pull the ball into his body and get the Jets on the board.
Despite getting the ball at their own two-yard line, the Jets would strike once again on their second third quarter possession. Mike Nugent cut the Philly lead to 17-10 on a 49-yard boot, culminating a 67-yard drive. The Jets moved the ball on the ground following a 33-yard pass interference penalty charge to defensive back Matt Ware. Ware hit Brad Smith early as Ramsey went up top to the Missouri alum.
The tide had definitely shifted and Trevor Johnson rode the surge, intercepting a pass early in the fourth stanza. Then Mangini pulled off a surprise, inserting Brad Smith at quarterback.
"I was shocked and happy at the same time. It's a weird situation, but you have to step up and try to help the team," Smith said.
Smith completed two short passes and converted a key fourth down conversion, running for six yards on a 4th and 2 play. Nugent's second field goal of the night -a 30-yard connection -narrowed the deficit to 17-13.
"We thought we would give him a shot and see what he could do and give us some position flexibility there," Mangini said of playing Smith at quarterback. "That is something that we talked about and worked on, and I think he did a nice job."
Three plays later, rookie Drew Coleman picked off Timmy Chang and returned the interception 17 yards all the way to the Philly 28. On a third down play inside the 10, Brad Smith -from his quarterback position - raced around right end for a nine-yard score. Smith had a stupendous night, totaling 37 yards on his one reception, rushing four times for 31 yards, and completing two of four passes for 13 yards.
"His natural athletic ability is awesome and it showed tonight," said quarterback Kellen Clemens of Brad Smith. "He played well and brought us back for the win. It was a lot of fun to watch him out there. He is an electric player."
Chang would move the Eagles all the way to the New York one in the final minutes, but the Jets put up a blockade at the goal line. On fourth down, defensive tackle Titus Adams hammered Bruce Perry for a loss. To cap off the night, Trevor Johnson dropped far back and picked off his second pass on the game's final play.
With Chad Pennington watching from the sidelines and Brooks Bollinger now a Minnesota Viking, rookie Kellen Clemens made his first start at quarterback for the Green & White. Clemens opened up with an offensive highlight, hooking up with fellow rookie Brad Smith up the right sideline for 37 yards. Smith, a rookie who continues to make progress at receiver, out-maneuvered a helpless Philly defensive back and made a great athletic play. But the Jets would not score on their drive and were held scoreless in the first half. Clemens completed five of his first seven passes for 72 yards.
Philly quarterback A.J. Feeley, a passer who started his career with the Eagles and was recently cut by the San Diego Chargers, re-joined his former team and led the 'Birds to three second quarter scoring drives.
Second-year back Ryan Moats opened the scoring on a 15-yard scamper. Moats made the most of a seal block and used tremendous acceleration to get the outside and eventually into the end zone. Following a Jets punt, Feeley led the Eagles on a 96-yard march. A one-yard Thomas Tapeh touchdown run was preceded by a 26-yard pass from Feeley to wide receiver Darnerien McCants. New York safety Derrick Strait had good coverage on McCants, but the 6'3" receiver was able to get up high for the ball. The Eagles closed the half up 17-0 after David Akers was true at the gun. Those late three points were set up by a Dexter Wynn interception of Clemens inside Jets' territory.
With the win, the Jets finished the preseason with a 2-2 mark. They begin their regular season next Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
"Moving forward now, we are focused on Tennessee," Mangini said. "That is who we are working on. They are going to get a couple days here to rest their legs and refocus."
Notes During the course of the game, New York GM Mike Tannenbaum announced that his team had acquired veteran DT Bobby Hamilton from Oakland. Hamilton, a 12-year veteran, has played in 148 career games and was a member of the Jets from 1996 -'99… Minutes prior to kickoff, the Jets also announced they had signed veteran DB Hank Poteat. Wearing number 31, Poteat played in the first half… In addition to two interceptions, Trevor Johnson led the defense with nine tackles… Running backs Derrick Blaylock and Kevan Barlow did not play and Cedric Houston took advantage of his opportunity. Houston ran hard throughout, piling up 108 rush yards on 25 carries… Chad Pennington was joined on the sidelines by a long list of regulars. In fact, none of the Jets first stringers played… Rookie safety Eric Smith racked up eight total tackles including seven solo stops… The Jets will cut their roster down to 53 players Saturday. "There are a lot of different issues that go into it," Mangini said. "With a lot of guys getting close to 60 reps this game, it is going to give us a nice body of work to look at."…